Roberts on agent-based modeling and finding the right balance to easing restrictions


Models show a likely rise in coronavirus infections as Ohio reopens. The key is managing the risk, experts say

CLEVELAND.COM - As Ohio reopens businesses and lifts its stay-at-home order, public health experts are predicting at least one inevitable outcome: an increase in coronavirus infections per day. The trick is to keep that increase manageable through “balanced risk.” 

Finding the right balance to easing restrictions

How do we determine what qualifies as “balanced risk” if there’s no playbook? Public health experts and academics are working to figure it out.

In the U.S., the Trump Administration has primarily allowed states to develop individual strategies for responding to the pandemic. As Ohio and other states begin to reopen, the result could be a significant increase in data on various strategies, said Dr. Mark Roberts, the director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Public Health Dynamics Lab and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management.

“In the next six to eight weeks, we’re going to have a lot of information about which ways of opening up were disastrous, and which ways of opening up were not disastrous,” Roberts said.

University of Pittsburgh researchers are monitoring the coronavirus through FRED, which is short for a Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics. The agent-based modeling system uses population data to represent each person in a geographic region. The FRED team is currently researching scenarios for easing social-distancing measures and reopening. The goal is to identify strategies that could be most effective, Roberts said.

Roberts said he’s concerned that some are seeing new coronavirus infections decline, and assume the virus is going away. He cautioned that social-distancing measures have been critical to slowing the spread, so “going back to normal” too quickly would be catastrophic.

“All of our models show that if you were to just open up to how things were three months ago, we would get a huge resurgence,” Roberts said. “There’s no question that in the absence of social distancing, we predict there’ll be a fairly substantial increase in cases.”

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from: Models show a likely rise in coronavirus infections as Ohio reopens. The key is managing the risk, experts say,  by Evan MacDonald /, Posted May 20, 2020 


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