AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a group we have regularly tapped into as COVID-19 waves come and go: The UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.
The research group was created in March of 2020 as COVID-19 started to spread across the United States.
Now, the consortium provides projections for groups as big as the CDC, all the way down to local event organizers. Researchers also maintain a publicly-facing COVID-19 projections dashboard. After feedback from the public, that dashboard is going to be around for a while.
“We actually thought that people were not watching the dashboard,” said Oluwaseun Egbelowo, a postdoctoral researcher who works with the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. “We wanted to stop, but we kept receiving messages ‘why are you guys not updating your dashboard.'”
The consortium works with other groups at UT which allows them to plug massive amounts of data into their models. We met with researchers last week at the data visualization lab on campus, where the models can be shown on massive screens and could be displayed to local and state leaders.
Egbelowo said despite a slow return to normal, they’re still seeing a need for their projections, as people have been sending the consortium questions almost every day about the state of the pandemic.
“They want to see the COVID trend[s], they want to see the latest report on what’s going to happen in the next weeks or months,” he said, noting right now projections show we’ve passed our peak in COVID-19 cases in the BA.4 and BA.5 surge.
While Egbelowo stresses the pandemic isn’t done, and best practices still need to be followed, he also said the consortium is talking about future research and applications for the modeling — taking best practices learned from COVID-19.
Egbelowo stressed how important equitable testing and vaccination was during this pandemic. Should we face another one, he said he hopes governments and health organizations can improve on their responses.
“We need to prepare for the next pandemic,” he said. Egbelowo also said the consortium is working on monkeypox projections, which are not yet ready.