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.
This spring UTSA is hosting a 30-second film festival on TikTok! Your mission? Create a 30-second video that highlights how you relax with Adobe Creative Cloud. This is your chance to take a break from the world around you make something fun. The top three videos will receive prizes that will help you on your creative journey and the top ten winners will receive free Adobe swag!Virtual Event
A lecture series brought to you by Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness and UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy. Dr. Sara Oswalt is the chair of & professor in the Department of Public Health at UTSA. She is also a certified sexuality educator through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, & Therapists.Virtual Event
As part of the annual Campus Race to Zero Waste, the Office of Facilities will provide sensitive document shredding services for our UTSA community. You can bring work-related or personal documents. All we ask is for you to shred away to help recycle!Parking Lot UTSA Student Union and Ximenes Avenue Garade
In many courses, faculty broach relevant but difficult topics surrounding race, ethnicity, civil rights, and much more with sensitivity and caring—-but this may be especially difficult in an online classroom. In this session, Dr. Shelley Howell will discuss how faculty can create an inclusive classroom environment digitally to allow for conducive conversations for all parties.Virtual Event
Great discussions continue this spring with Mary McNaughton-Cassill, Professor of Psychology and Donna Edmondson, University Ombuds. They are providing five 30-minute interactive webinars. Topics include bridge building, stigmas, team building, staying engaged at work and our shared experiences.Virtual Event
The Black Student Union of UTSA presents a panel discussion on Black women in history and the impact of prominent Black women in the Roadrunner Community.Virtual Event
Join this workshop to explore how this instructor designed and delivered an exemplary course with an innovative design and a student-centered approach. This workshop is focused on the use of virtual labs and interactive content using interactive tools such as PlayPosit and Softchalk for an enhanced learning experience in large classes (more than 400 students).Virtual Event
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