More than a week after a powerful winter storm hit Texas, some experts say the conditions – which have forced hundreds of people across the state to huddle in homes, cars and shelters to warm – could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.
The devastating storm nearly collapsed the state’s electricity grid, leaving millions of people in dark, unheated homes in some of the freezing temperatures in state history.
Reporting of coronavirus cases dropped precipitously for a week in Texas during the storm and then increased sharply again in the week since, so it is still too early to discern a specific growth or decline in the number of cases there. . But experts say conditions created during the storm have raised concerns.
“It’s possible to see a recovery from the Texas storm,” said Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas. “We had a lot of things against us,” Dr Jetelina said, noting that she, like many others, had to move from house to house when she lost power.
People stood in long queues to buy water and food at grocery stores and food distribution sites, spent the night in warming centers, and crashed with friends and family during that the electricity was going out and that pipes were bursting in their houses.
While it is not known how many people are still displaced by the storm, reports from various cities suggest that thousands of people across Texas may have been forced to seek shelter.
In Fort Worth, nearly 200 people took refuge in a convention center. In Dallas, a convention center housed about 650 people, the Texas Tribune reported, and a site in Houston had nearly 800 people, while 500 people lived in emergency shelters in Austin, officials said. Even in Del Rio, a smaller town, officials reported nearly 40 people were to stay at the city’s warming center.
“There are very real possibilities that the coronavirus had events of wide spread or that it was more easily transmitted because people were congregated inside for long periods of time,” said Dr Jetelina. “It’s a little worrying.”
But cases could also go the other way, she said, as millions of people were forced to stay at home as work and school were largely canceled. With the data reporting delay, it is still too early to tell, she noted, so the full impact of the Texas storm on the number of cases will not be known for at least one. week. Even then, said Dr Jetelina, it will be difficult to say whether an increase in cases is linked to the storm or to new, more contagious variants – or a combination of the two.
Although the average rate of new daily cases reported in Texas has returned to pre-storm levels, it remains about half of what it was in January.
This wider drop reflects the decline in cases nationwide in recent weeks, as the daily average of new cases in the United States hovers around 70,000 – well below its high of 250,000 last month .
Stories of people coming together in desperate search for heat and water were ubiquitous throughout Texas.
In San Antonio, Diana Gaitan had more water and electricity than her relatives. So several of them ended up crashing into her home, she said while waiting in a food distribution line at the San Antonio food bank last weekend. At one point, there were a dozen people spending the night at Ms. Gaitan’s home.
“We were all stuck inside the house,” she said.