HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Daily deaths in Texas from the COVID-19 virus would increase by 50% without a mask mandate, according to data models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Texas hit a peak of daily deaths in mid-January, losing between 300 and 350 Texans per day. That has dipped below 300 deaths per day in February and is projected to continue to decline into the spring with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Model data shows that, at the rate we are currently, we could have fewer than 25 deaths per day as soon as June. However, projections show the lifting of a mask mandate, assuming a worst-case spread, causes the death rate to stall and stagnate at 100 deaths per day into the summer, a difference of between 25 and 100 new deaths each day.
A less serious spread would put new deaths at between 50 and 75 per day, continuing at elevated levels into the winter.
Support for mask use remains around 80% across Texas, signifying that at least four out of five Texans regularly follow the mandate and wear masks across the state, according to the IHME data.
When looking at new cases alone, aside from deaths, projections are just as stark, according to the model.
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New cases peaked in Texas at 42,000 per day in January and have since declined to around 20,000 new cases per day.
If a mask mandate stayed in place, IHME models predict that new cases could be as low at 1,000 per day by June. Without it, worst-case projections show at least 10,000 Texans being diagnosed per day, a stark reminder of what officials say is the efficacy of mask-wearing.
The same projection, assuming some but not all mask-wearing remains and vaccine rollout continues as scheduled, suggests 5,000 new cases per day.
As of Wednesday, March 3, Texas had diagnosed 2.67 million COVID-19 cases. Nearly 45,000 people have died from the virus.
In Harris County, 353,000 cases had been diagnosed and 5,110 people have died.