The most at-risk areas are in poorer industrial parts of Houston. Getty Images

A group of researchers from the University of Texas and the University of Houston have created a mapping tool for identifying which parts of the greater Houston area are at the greatest risk from COVID-19.

"The map offers a comparative look at vulnerabilities across Harris County, and could help policy makers determine how to allocate coronavirus tests and health and safety resources," says Amin Kiaghadi, a research associate at UT's Oden Institute for Computational Engineering & Sciences and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Houston, in a news release.

The study, which is posted on MedRxiv, looked into access to health care, pollutant exposure, and medical insurance coverage. Kiaghadi and two UH professors, Hanadi Rifai and Winston Liaw, concluded that the areas most at risk were in the east and northeastern parts of town — especially industrial areas and high-traffic waterways.

The research showed that the highest risk areas were identified as poorer communities, like the area near the Houston Ship Channel. Consequently, populations with lower risk are in the far west areas of Harris County, which tend to be considered nicer areas. According to the release, around 17 percent of the county's population falls into a risk category.

"I'm really interested to see how decision makers look at these maps," Kiaghadi continues. "They can say 'this specific area is vulnerable to many different things—people living there have lower income, they have or they don't have access to the medical care— and that can change the way that they distribute the resources."

Kiaghadi usually focuses on floodwaters spread contamination, and he postulates that his work in this field had an application within the pandemic.

"We believe that if you're exposed to some chemicals for a long time or you were living in an area with bad air quality, that can affect your immune system long term and then make you more vulnerable to a disease like COVID-19," Kiaghadi says. "So we decided to take a new approach here and show that these factors should be considered."

Based on census data, the map is divided up into 786 polygons and looks into 46 different variables in five categories:

  1. People with limited access to hospitals and medical care.
  2. People with underlying medical conditions.
  3. People with exposures to environmental pollutants.
  4. People in areas vulnerable to natural disasters and flooding.
  5. People with specific lifestyle factors, like obesity, drinking and smoking.

According to the release, the researchers formulated the map within just a couple weeks.

"We already had a lot of knowledge and experience working with this sociodemographic data, and population vulnerability to the flaws in the environment and exposure," Kiaghadi says. "So we felt like, this is totally related to our research, so why not explore what it means?"

The map is broken down by 786 census tracts. Graphic via utexas.edu

Houston added more than a million people in the last decade. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Bayou City comes close to topping Census Bureau's list for greatest population boom in the country

so popular

The Lone Star State is proving quite popular, at least according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As reported by numbers released on March 26, Texas is home to cities with the fastest-growing large metro area in the nation and the biggest numeric gain of residents.

Those would be Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth, respectively. And we'll delve into their numbers in a minute, because first it's time to talk about Houston.

H-Town actually nipped at DFW's heels in terms of the numeric population gain from 2010 to 2019. In that time, the Houston area picked up 1,145,654 residents, the second highest total among U.S. metros. That's around the number of people who live in the Buffalo, New York, metro area.

Houston stills holds the No. 5 position on the list of the largest U.S. metro areas. The bureau put its 2019 population at 7,066,141, up 19.4 percent from 2010.

Austin, meanwhile, saw its population shoot up 29.8 percent between 2010 and 2019, landing at 2,227,083 as of July 1, 2019. Put another way, the Austin area added 510,760 residents during the one-decade span.

From 2018 to 2019 alone, the Austin area's population rose 2.8 percent, the Census Bureau says. Numerically, the one-year increase was 61,586 (taking into account births, deaths, new arrivals to the area, and people moving away). That works out to 169 people per day.

Helping drive the Austin area's population spike from 2010 to 2019 were two of the country's fastest-growing counties. Hays County ranked as the second-fastest growing county in the U.S. (46.5 percent) in the past decade, the Census Bureau says, with Williamson County at No. 9 (39.8 percent).

In terms of numeric growth, Travis County ranked 10th in the country from 2010 to 2019 with the addition of 249,510 residents, according to the Census Bureau.

While Austin was the fastest-growing major metro area from 2010 to 2019, Dallas-Fort Worth topped the Census Bureau list for the biggest numeric gain. During that period, DFW welcomed 1,206,599 residents. To put that into perspective, that's about the same number of people who live in the entire Salt Lake City metro area.

On July 1, 2019, DFW's population stood at 7,573,136, up 19 percent from 2010. It remains the country's fourth largest metro, behind New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Although the San Antonio metro area didn't make the top 10 for percentage or numeric growth from 2010 to 2019, two of the region's counties appeared among the 10 fastest-growing counties:

  • Ranked at No. 4, Comal County's population jumped 43.9 percent.
  • Ranked at No. 5, Kendall County's population rose 42.1 percent.

In the previous decade, the San Antonio area's population climbed 19.1 percent, winding up at 2,550,960 in 2019, the Census Bureau says. Over the 10-year period, the region added 408,440 residents.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Texas added more residents from mid-2018 through mid-2019 than any other state. Marco Bicci/Getty Images

Texas added more residents than any other state in past year

Growing gains

Yes, everything is bigger in Texas — including population growth. From mid-2018 to mid-2019, the Lone Star State added more residents than any other state, new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

From July 2018 to July 2019, the population of Texas grew by 367,215, according to Census Bureau data released December 30. That's close to the number of people who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Arlington (398,112).

Keep in mind that this does not mean nearly 370,000 people moved to Texas in just one year. The Census Bureau's new population estimates represent the number of people who moved to and moved out of each state, as well as the number of births versus deaths.

Texas' 2018-19 population growth eclipsed that of the country's largest state, California.

The Golden State saw its population increase by just 50,635 during the one-year period, the Census Bureau says. What's behind the meager growth? From 2018 to 2019, California's net domestic migration plunged by 203,414. Net domestic migration represents the number of people moving to a state versus the number of people moving out of a state.

Here's another eye opener: Texas accounted for nearly one-fourth of the country's population growth from 2018 to 2019 (1,552,022 people). In that time, 10 states lost population, including Illinois, New Jersey, and New York.

In July 2018, the Texas population stood at an estimated 28,628,666. By July 2019, that figure had climbed to 28,995,881, the Census Bureau says. On a percentage basis, Texas' 2018-19 population growth (1.28 percent) ranked fifth among the states.

Perhaps more impressive is how much Texas expanded from April 2010 (when the last official U.S. headcount was conducted) to July 2019. During that period, Texas added 3,849,790 residents, according to the Census Bureau. To put that into perspective, nearly 4 million people live in the entire state of Oklahoma. Texas' population jumped 15.3 percent from 2010 to 2019, the third highest growth rate behind the District of Columbia and Utah.

Experts cite economic and job growth — along with a low cost of living, a low cost of doing business, and low taxes compared with many other states — as drivers of Texas' population boom. Helping fuel the boom are substantial population spikes in the state's four largest metro areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.

In 2030, the state's population is projected to approach 34.9 million, according to a forecast from the Texas Demographic Center.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Exclusive: Houston blockchain startup closes $4M series B round led by new investor

money moves

An industrial blockchain-as-a-service startup based in Houston has closed a series B funding round thanks to support from both new and returning investors.

Data Gumbo Corp., which uses its blockchain network GumboNet to optimize smart contracts for oil and gas supply chains, announced its first close in its $4 million series B funding round that was led by new investor L37, which has operations in the Bay Area and in Houston. The round also saw contribution from returning investors Equinor Ventures and Saudi Aramco Energy Venture.

The funds will go toward growing Data Gumbo's sales team, which has been busy with the company's growth. While providing their own set of challenges and obstacles, both the pandemic and drop in oil prices meant oil and gas companies are prioritizing lean operations — something DataGumbo is able to help with.

"The opportunity in all this is companies have got to cut expenses," Andrew Bruce, CEO and founder, tells InnovationMap. "What's happened to us is our sales have absolutely exploded — in a good way. We have a huge number of leads, and we have to be able to deliver on those leads."

Bruce says leading the sales growth is Bill Arend, who was hired Data Gumbo's chief commercial officer this spring. Data Gumbo also recently announced that Richard Dobbs, 30-year veteran of McKinsey and former director of the McKinsey Global Institute, has joined the board as chairman.

"Dobbs is a recognized strategic industry thinker," Bruce says in a release. "His distinct expertise will lend structure, support and validation to Data Gumbo as we experience aggressive company growth."

Of course, fundraising in this unprecedented time, isn't easy. Bruce says he and his team were able to succeed thanks to a new investor, L37, which came from an introduction within Bruce's network.

"Data Gumbo is the category leader for industrial smart contracts, which is an inevitable next step in digital transformation of the oil and gas industry," says Kemal Farid, a partner in L37, in a statement. "There is a lack of transparency, visibility and accuracy between counterparts of contracts that increases the costs of doing business and this has been greatly exacerbated by the current business landscape. We look forward to applying our experience to propel the company along its journey to bring transactional certainty and cost efficiency to commercial relationships."

Additionally, Bruce says he's very proud of his company's return investors, who are also clients of DataGumbo.

"[We also have] the continuous support by our original investors — Aramco and Equinor — they invested in us not just once but twice," Bruce says. "They have been tremendously supportive, not just from an investor perspective, but also proving the value. We've got multiple projects starting with both of those companies."

Bruce says he already has eyes for another venture capital round — perhaps sometime next year — for Data Gumbo, which has raised $14.8 million to date. However, the company isn't far from profitability and growth from that avenue too.

"We're going to have the luxury of choice," Bruce says. "We want to grow as aggressively as possible so we are probably going to go the venture capital route."


GumboNet: Smart Contacts Made Simple www.youtube.com

Houston coworking space to donate office space to startups affected by COVID-19

need some space?

A Houston-based commercial real estate company in the historic East Downtown District, is giving away free space to two startups who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Headquarters is currently accepting submissions from startups, founders, and entrepreneurs to be considered for free office space through Friday, October 2, with recipients set to be announced the week of October 5th.

Founded in 2014 by brother and sister duo, Peter and Devin Licata, Headquarters provides flexible office space and suites to startups and young businesses in a variety of industries. Inspired by creative office spaces in Denver and coworking sites to create a completely new way to work.

Devin and Peter Licata founded Headquarters six years ago. Photo courtesy of Headquarters

"For Devin and I being local Houstonians," says Peter. "It was very exciting to bring a product to Houston that we had never seen before in the city. When we started the search for a building, we had a very specific idea of how we wanted it to look and feel, and the amenities we wanted to provide."

The building located on 3302 Canal St, was repurposed from an old warehouse built in the mid 20th century. The Licatas spent about eight months designing the building, which had sat vacant for seven years. The design features, evoke a feeling of a corporate campus but for small business which works perfectly for COVID-19 social distancing measures.

"One of the things we wanted was really wide hallways," says Devin. "Typical hallways here are about seven feet, when we were working with our architect we said, double it. The specific visuals are there to invoke a feeling, with an interior courtyard, and lots of natural light.

"Our architects weren't used to working with clients in commercial real estate who were designing based on an office where we would want to work, instead of a client who wanted to maximize every square footage."

The coworking space is adhering to social distancing recommendations. Photo courtesy of Headquarters

The wide open spaces, with hallways over 13 feet wide, high ceilings about 18 feet tall, and HVAC unit that does not recirculate air, along with the office suites that are on average 2 to 3 times larger than other coworking spaces allows all of their tenants to practice social distancing in a safe environment.

Headquarters is monitoring infection rates locally, while following safety guidelines to operate their facility safely. All guests are required to answer health screening questions upon entry and wear face coverings. They continue to clean all common areas and high touch surfaces with EPA-approved products and provide hand sanitizer at all points of entry.

With 35,000 square feet in total and 45 office suites, the Licatas say they chose the East End as their headquarters because of its close proximity to downtown and renewing growth of the community.

"The East End was an obvious location for us, we had been looking for buildings in the area for other development opportunities," says Devin. "Given it's proximity to downtown and its access to three different freeways, from a commuter standpoint it was really important as well as the community aspect."

Headquarters is located just east of downtown Houston. Photo courtesy of Headquarters

Mental health gets a spotlight at free online summit for Houston employers

Mental Health Matters

While the world's population has been focused on the physical effects of COVID-19, there hasn't always been as much attention paid to mental health amid the pandemic.

Every socio-economic class, demographic group, and industry has felt the strain, brought on by social isolation, job instability, and increased stress.

"It quickly became clear that these preventative measures, while recommended for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, were not providing the feeling of security for company employees that we had hoped for," says Next Level Urgent Care's chief medical officer, Karen Rakers, MD. "We needed to address employee mental health."

Next Level Urgent Care began COVID-19 testing across its 15 urgent care locations in March, and shortly after expanded into Houston workplaces, providing onsite COVID-19 testing and temperature checks for large employers in the Houston area.

When it became clear that mental health required more attention than it had been getting, the Next Level Health and Wellness team worked with clinical psychologist Ilyssa Bass, PhD, to assemble a group of diverse mental health and workplace wellness professionals.

Together, they worked to address mental health stigma in the workplace and educate employers on how to implement creative solutions to address employee mental health issues.

One of the major results is the Prioritizing Workplace Wellness Summit, a free five-day virtual event taking place September 28-October 2.

Attendees can look forward to interviews with more than 25 interviews experts, including such as Sally Spencer-Thomas, Psy.D; Daryl Shorter, MD; Craig Kramer; Liz Kislik; Bill Judge, JD, LL.M; and Jeff Gorter, LMSW.

Here's a taste of what you'll discover during the summit:

  • How a multi-faceted approach to improving the mental health of an employee group leads to success
  • Which qualities make organizations resilient when responding to crises including the pandemic
  • Leadership skills and techniques that help maintain a strong workforce
  • Threat assessments and multidisciplinary workplace violence prevention programs to keep an employee group safe
  • How now, more than ever, technology can help reach the masses and deliver easily accessible solutions for common mental health issues
  • Steps employers can take to reduce stigma in their organizations
  • Why the time for action is right now during the pandemic

As a bonus, each free ticket also comes with access to an exclusive new report, "The Top Workplace Wellness and Mental Health Strategies."

Sign up to discover what's working today to optimize mental health in the workplace — your employees will thank you.