Austin Students Will 'Arrive Infected' If School Buildings Open In August, Data Scientist Says

Jul 9, 2020

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If school buildings in Austin open on Aug. 18 as planned, there will be infections the first day of class, UT mathematical epidemiologist Lauren Ancel Meyers said.

Myers has been conducting scientific predictions about COVID-19 in Austin since the beginning of the year. An analysis she presented to Austin City Council on Thursday shows that if the rate of infections in the city continues to rise, it’s guaranteed students with the virus will show up to schools.

“For a school of 500 kids, we would expect that somewhere between 15 and 20 [students] would arrive infected that first week of school,” Meyers said.

She said cases in Austin are rising too fast the health care system is close to getting overwhelmed. The situation does not make it safe to open schools, she said.

“Even if you slam on the brakes today, we’ll still see a rise in cases before it starts to subside because there is pent-up infection in our community,” Meyers said.

She said another stay-at-home order or measure to dramatically curb infections could slow cases down enough where opening schools by Aug. 18 would be possible.

Meyers spoke to council a day after the union for Austin ISD employees demanded the district not hold in-person classes at the beginning of the semester. Teachers who spoke during a news conference said they are scared of contracting the virus from kids and bringing it home to their own families or putting their own health at risk.

Like many other school districts in Central Texas, AISD has not announced explicit plans for what school will look like in August. It has just said it wants to have in-person and online options available for families.

Got a tip? Email Claire McInerny at claire@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.

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