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Will The Winter Storm Lead To The Next COVID-19 Surge?

Texas Standard reporter Joy Díaz sheltered some of her extended family during the storm. At one point, 12 people and one dog were living at her home.
Joy Díaz/Texas Standard
Texas Standard reporter Joy Díaz sheltered some of her extended family during the storm. At one point, 12 people and one dog were living at her home.

From Texas Standard:

Last week’s winter storm forced many Texas who lost power and water to shelter with friends or family.

Dr. James McDeavitt, senior vice president and dean of clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine, says while people gathering during the storm may lead to a temporary uptick in new COVID-19 cases, he doesn’t expect it to lead to another big surge.

One reason is that most of the state shut down last week. That means people weren’t going to work or gathering in restaurants or bars. McDeavitt says that will have a bigger positive impact in curbing virus spread than any negative impact from people sheltering with others.

“I think the impact of that shutdown is going to way overshadow the impact of people coming together and aggregating,” he said.

Another protective factor is that cases have been declining since the end of January in Texas and nationwide. McDeavitt says there are several reasons for that, including vaccinations; the number of asymptomatic people who’ve already gotten COVID-19 and aren’t likely to get it again soon; and greater public awareness about social distancing and masks after the post-holiday season surge.

The storm did temporarily slow down vaccination and testing efforts, but McDeavitt says Texas should be able to catch up quickly.

“I think it’s a blip. We’ll catch up,” he said.

Despite his optimism, cases are still high, so McDeavitt says Texans need to continue doing all of the things they were doing before the storm to protect themselves from COVID-19.

“This is not reason to become complacent because we still have the potential dangerous variants out there. We still have to mask, still have to distance, still have to stay out of crowded indoor spaces,” he said. “That’s not over.”

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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