Tarrant County’s public health director is using a discredited website filled with asterisks—admitting it has “caveats”—to guide the county’s coronavirus response policies.

Covid Act Now (CAN) is a website modeling expected deaths from the Chinese Communist Party coronavirus. This model has spread widely across the world and was touted by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

CAN predicted 430,000 deaths in Texas if shelter-in-place wasn’t enacted. However, the designers themselves admit the model has several flaws.

Here are some of the known limitations from their website:

  • R0s for interventions are guesses, in some cases informed by data. There is no historical precedent for what is going on right now to draw from.
  • This is not a node-based analysis, and thus assumes everyone spreads the disease at the same rate. In practice, there are some folks who are “super-spreaders,” and others who are almost isolated. Interventions should be targeted primarily at those most likely to spread the disease.
  • Only hospital beds at aggregate are considered. ICU beds and ventilators, which are likely to run low before beds, are not considered.
  • Demographics, populations, and hospital bed counts are outdated.
  • Demographics for the USA as a whole are used, rather than specific to each state.

The site admits theirs is a “nonexhaustive” list. Neil Ferguson, the father of this model, walked back his original prediction of 500,000 deaths in the U.K.—only one day after the country went on lockdown. Before a full analysis of the effects of the policy was evaluated, he predicted 20,000 deaths or less and that the U.K. hospitals would be fine.

Tuesday, Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja told county commissioners that CAN predicts they may not experience a peak of coronavirus cases until June. He also admitted the data has “caveats.”

“Keep staying at home,” Taneja told commissioners. “We’re doing the right things in Tarrant County and we need to keep the course.”

However, he also reported the county’s hospital bed capacity has increased and they have more flu cases than coronavirus cases.

“We have a lot more flu than COVID-19,” Taneja said.

Taneja informed commissioners there are currently 2,951 available hospital beds in the county, and only 113 taken up by coronavirus patients.

“If we have not peaked in Tarrant County, why [is everything] trending down?” resident Andrew Messer asked commissioners.

Recently, Texas Scorecard reported a significant decline in emergency room visits and patient volume at medical facilities in Texas and other states from Dr. Robert Phelan, an emergency room physician and owner of three facilities in Dallas.

Data shared by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson showed of the 1,150 confirmed coronavirus cases in Dallas County, 500 were hospitalized. More than 2,100 patients with the flu have been hospitalized over the same four-week period.

Dallas County models assumed of the 650,000 residents it estimated would contract the virus, 62 percent would need a ventilator. Yet sources revealed to Texas Scorecard April 3 there were 13 coronavirus patients on ventilators at Parkland Hospital, and most of the patients who died had an underlying condition. Inquiries made to Parkland Hospital were forwarded to the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services. They did not respond.

Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang told Dallas commissioners the incubation period of the virus is four days.

“We need to listen to the medical experts and follow their advice,” Tarrant Commissioner Roy Brooks said Tuesday.

“Myself and a lot of others have been laid off,” resident Bradley Bell told commissioners that same day. “We sure don’t want to see this [shelter-in-place] get extended.”

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.