Texas Predicted to See Sharp Increase in COVID-19 Deaths In Next 3 Weeks

Mask and Texas Flag
Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered in early July that masks be worn in public in most situations, as cases and deaths due to COVID-19 quickly multiplied. JJ Gouin/Getty

Texas could soon see a sharp increase in deaths due to COVID-19, according to a model from the University of Texas (UT) COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

The model projects that Texas deaths caused by the virus will number 23,460 by August 31, with a low estimate of 20,655 and a high estimate of 26,726. The official death count in the state stood at 8,459 as of Sunday, the most recent total at time of publication.

If the UT model is correct, the state could see an average of 781 new deaths per day by the end of the month, significantly more than the 116 new deaths that were reported on Sunday. More than half of the total deaths in the state occurred during July, weeks after new cases began to surge.

New cases began to steadily increase in mid-June and reached a peak of over 10,000 cases per day for several days in mid-July. The 4,879 new cases reported on Sunday was one of the lowest recent single-day totals, while new cases have averaged over 7,200 per day during the past week.

The number of people tested for virus has fallen in recent days, while those who are being tested are increasingly testing positive. The state's 7-day test positivity rate recently soared to a high of just over 20 percent.

Although deaths per day have rarely exceeded 200, the model predicts an average daily death toll of over 700 per day during the next three weeks. The projection may be plausible considering that COVID-19 deaths typically take place several weeks or longer after the time a person tests positive for the virus.

The UT model also predicts a grim outlook for the United States as a whole, with 219,871 deaths expected nationally by the end of the month. There were just under 162,000 deaths in the country as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, the model's national predictions appear to have largely missed the mark. For instance, UT reports that there were 155,087 actual U.S. deaths on August 6, while their model had projected a maximum of 162,159 and a minimum of 160,283 deaths by the same date.

The model's projections for Texas have also proven to be higher than the actual totals. Although the minimum projection of 8,682 deaths by Sunday included fewer than 200 deaths more than the actual total, the middle projection of 9,437 was off by more than 1,000.

Other models predict deaths will continue to climb but at a slower pace. The University of Washington's well-respected Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects there will be between 9,826 and 14,344 deaths in Texas by the end of the month, while the U.S. total is expected to fall between 177,727 and 191,721.