FEBRUARY 11, 2021 — At the beginning of the year, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted about the first confirmed case of the variant B.1.1.7 strand of COVID-19 in Texas coming from her home county.
“This is disturbing,” she wrote about the mutation’s startling nearby appearance. But Richard Jones, a UTSA professor specializing in human geography, was not surprised. He had already predicted that a new variant would enter from Harris County.
Jones had been monitoring the coronavirus since the start of the first wave, in March 2020, when it entered the Lone Star State.
“I started tracing the spread of the coronavirus across Texas from March 6—the index case, in Houston—to early August 2020, predicting the date of the first confirmed case in each county,” Jones said.
Jones uses a spatial diffusion social gravity model (the population of each county divided by the road distance to the metro area to which it is tributary) and local proxies for the county’s connectivity to the outside world to predict this date.
The model is able to explain more than two-thirds of the variation in time-sequencing of the virus as it progressed over five months from the Gulf Coast to the IH-35 corridor and eventually to the Rolling Plains, Edwards Plateau and Trans-Pecos regions of the state.
This approach that addresses a hierarchical and contagious pattern of spread was inspired by the 1989 research of medical geographers Gary Shannon and Gerald Pyle on the origin and diffusion of the AIDS epidemic. Their work showed how once the virus leapfrogged from Africa and the Caribbean into the U.S., it landed in major metropolitan areas such as New York and Los Angeles. From there it spread contagiously from county to county into the surrounding areas.
More than three decades later medical geography offers an accurate methodology with the leverage of data science and GIS methods to create warning systems for new variants. According to the CDC, the B117 variant has become the leading mutation of the COVID-19 virus. Jones anticipates that medical geography will become more integral in sounding the alarms. With his model, local officials can better plan for the arrival of a future virus once it has entered the state.“The predominant narrative of COVID-19 emphasizes its unpredictable origins and spread. However, regional level diffusion research by geographers has been able to forecast its spread with some accuracy,” Jones explained. “My research aims to lessen fear and foreboding, and enable preemptive response by local planners, through the application of social science modeling and detailed geographic knowledge on the ground.”
Jones’ analysis and model can be applied to other states, and his research demonstrates how UTSA works to solve the grand challenges of today. He has submitted this research to The Social Science Journal and it is currently under review.
Come to Bandera Market to celebrate national Hispanic Heritage Month with Hispanic vendors from a variety of countries. Free entry.Bandera Pointe Shopping Center,11627 Bandera Road
The College for Health, Community and Policy at UTSA is proud to present the Dean's Community Lecture Series, a series of events bringing community leaders from San Antonio and beyond to foster the natural leadership abilities of students while discussing critical topics in our community.Virtual Event
A video on Instagram Live (@UTSA_MSCEJ) of Chef Jesse Moreno-Valle from Aramark creating a couple of great dishes: sopa negra (black bean soup) al estilo Costa Rica y güirilas (a crepe style item made with corn and a cheese filling) from Nicaragua.Virtual Event
Visit the library to learn how to make your own Worry Dolls. Pick up a supply packet to make at the library or to take home. Worry dolls (also called trouble dolls; in Spanish, Muñeca quitapena) are small, hand-made dolls that originate from Guatemala.San Antonio Public Library, 9050 Wellwood, San Antonio, Texas 78250
For Hispanic Heritage Month this year we will be reading two books, starting in September with "I, Rigoberta Menchú", an autobiography. The October book will be "Cemetery Boys" by Aiden Thomas. Students who join the RJBC are eligible to receive the book free.Virtual Event
Dueling Tacos are on the menu for Noon Time Helping of Mexican cuisine in San Antonio Public Library's Virtual Kitchen! Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in style and discover new taco ideas!Virtual Event
Join the voice and instrument ensembles in this welcome back concert outdoors near the central fountain. Jazz, band, and choral favorites will be performed against the fall sunset--and it is all free!Sombrilla Plaza, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
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