coronavirus

Statisticians Look Toward Second Wave of COVID-19

They predict an increase in case numbers, but say people can change their behaviors to minimize the trend

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The 2019 novel coronavirus has kept the experts guessing, even the experts who "predict" for a living.

"For a disease like COVID-19, a lot of things are different," said UNT Health Science Center statistician Rajesh Nandy.

He said the typical factors for modeling disease trends haven't been typical during the COVID-19 pandemic because variables are changing.

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For example, there's been strict lockdown orders for some areas and not others. Some people now wear masks, while others don't. Businesses are allowed to open, but not everyone is leaving their homes.

"As soon as people perceived it as a threat, they kind of shut themselves down," Nandy said.

He recently used mobility metrics from Google on its Android phone users to find that visits to North Texas retailers and restaurants, as of last week, were about 17% lower than before the pandemic.

If more people get sick and become hospitalized, he predicts the second wave of cases would be manageable because he believes people would quickly revert to the changes they made during the height of the pandemic.

However, he said, with the surge of public gatherings amid even more loosened restrictions, his next round of data may prove anything is possible.

"It could tilt easily one way or the other. More likely, in the worse direction."

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