UT Austin's COVID-19 death rate projections skewed by erroneous data point

The University of Texas at Austin found an erroneous data point that skewed its models projections that between 20,655 and 26,726 Texas would die of COVID-19 through the end of the month, according to a San Antonio Express-News report.

That number of COVID-19 deaths will likely be lower, according to the report; there were 8,459 cumulative COVID-19 deaths in Texas as of Aug. 9. A university spokesperson said the team identified an erroneous data point for July 27 deaths that affected its projections.

On July 27, the state changed its reporting method to counting all individuals with COVID-19 as the cause of death on their death certificates, which caused a one-time spike in the data. The university's projections did not account for the change, and mortality data does not reflect a slowdown in the transmission that occurred after the state enacted stricter policies to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The university's model uses cell phone data and death tolls to project future deaths, according to the report. A predictive model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington shows Texas' COVID-19 cumulative deaths reaching 11,771 through the end of the month, much lower than the University of Texas at Austin's model.


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