skip to main content

Title: High resolution proximity statistics as early warning for US universities reopening during COVID-19
Reopening of colleges and universities for the Fall semester of 2020 across the United States has caused signi ficant COVID-19 case spikes, requiring reactive responses such as temporary closures and switching to online learning. Until sufficient levels of immunity are reached through vaccination, Institutions of Higher Education will need to balance academic operations with COVID-19 spread risk within and outside the student community. In this work, we study the impact of proximity statistics obtained from high resolution mobility traces in predicting case rate surges in university counties. We focus on 50 land-grant university counties (LGUCs) across the country and show high correlation (PCC > 0.6) between proximity statistics and COVID-19 case rates for several LGUCs during the period around Fall 2020 reopenings. These observations provide a lead time of up to 3 weeks in preparing resources and planning containment efforts. We also show how features such as total population, population affiliated with university, median income and case rate intensity could explain some of the observed high correlation. We believe these easily explainable mobility metrics along with other disease surveillance indicators can help universities be better prepared for the Spring 2021 semester.
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1633028 1443054 1916805 1918656 2028004 2027541
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. This work quanti es mobility changes observed during the di erent phases of the pandemic world-wide at multiple resolutions { county, state, country { using an anonymized aggregate mobility map that captures population ows between geographic cells of size 5 km2. As we overlay the global mobility map with epidemic incidence curves and dates of government interventions, we observe that as case counts rose, mobility fell and has since then seen a slow but steady increase in ows. Further, in order to understand mixing within a region, we propose a new metric to quantify the e ect of social distancingmore »on the basis of mobility.Taking two very di erent countries sampled from the global spectrum, We analyze in detail the mobility patterns of the United States (US) and India. We then carry out a counterfactual analysis of delaying the lockdown and show that a one week delay would have doubled the reported number of cases in the US and India. Finally, we quantify the e ect of college students returning back to school for the fall semester on COVID-19 dynamics in the surrounding community. We employ the data from a recent university outbreak (reported on August 16, 2020) to infer possible Re values and mobility ows combined with daily prevalence data and census data to obtain an estimate of new cases that might arrive on a college campus. We nd that maintaining social distancing at existing levels would be e ective in mitigating the extra seeding of cases. However, potential behavioral change and increased social interaction amongst students (30% increase in Re ) along with extra seeding can increase the number of cases by 20% over a period of one month in the encompassing county. To our knowledge, this work is the rst to model in near real-time, the interplay of human mobility, epidemic dynamics and public policies across multiple spatial resolutions and at a global scale.« less
  2. Benenson, Itzhak (Ed.)
    With the onset of COVID-19 and the resulting shelter in place guidelines combined with remote working practices, human mobility in 2020 has been dramatically impacted. Existing studies typically examine whether mobility in specific localities increases or decreases at specific points in time and relate these changes to certain pandemic and policy events. However, a more comprehensive analysis of mobility change over time is needed. In this paper, we study mobility change in the US through a five-step process using mobility footprint data. (Step 1) Propose the Delta Time Spent in Public Places (ΔTSPP) as a measure to quantify daily changesmore »in mobility for each US county from 2019-2020. (Step 2) Conduct Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to reduce the ΔTSPP time series of each county to lower-dimensional latent components of change in mobility. (Step 3) Conduct clustering analysis to find counties that exhibit similar latent components. (Step 4) Investigate local and global spatial autocorrelation for each component. (Step 5) Conduct correlation analysis to investigate how various population characteristics and behavior correlate with mobility patterns. Results show that by describing each county as a linear combination of the three latent components, we can explain 59% of the variation in mobility trends across all US counties. Specifically, change in mobility in 2020 for US counties can be explained as a combination of three latent components: 1) long-term reduction in mobility, 2) no change in mobility, and 3) short-term reduction in mobility. Furthermore, we find that US counties that are geographically close are more likely to exhibit a similar change in mobility. Finally, we observe significant correlations between the three latent components of mobility change and various population characteristics, including political leaning, population, COVID-19 cases and deaths, and unemployment. We find that our analysis provides a comprehensive understanding of mobility change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.« less
  3. Abstract The objective of this study is to examine the transmission risk of COVID-19 based on cross-county population co-location data from Facebook. The rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States has imposed a major threat to public health, the real economy, and human well-being. With the absence of effective vaccines, the preventive actions of social distancing, travel reduction and stay-at-home orders are recognized as essential non-pharmacologic approaches to control the infection and spatial spread of COVID-19. Prior studies demonstrated that human movement and mobility drove the spatiotemporal distribution of COVID-19 in China. Little is known, however, about the patternsmore »and effects of co-location reduction on cross-county transmission risk of COVID-19. This study utilizes Facebook co-location data for all counties in the United States from March to early May 2020 for conducting spatial network analysis where nodes represent counties and edge weights are associated with the co-location probability of populations of the counties. The analysis examines the synchronicity and time lag between travel reduction and pandemic growth trajectory to evaluate the efficacy of social distancing in ceasing the population co-location probabilities, and subsequently the growth in weekly new cases across counties. The results show that the mitigation effects of co-location reduction appear in the growth of weekly new confirmed cases with one week of delay. The analysis categorizes counties based on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and examines co-location patterns within and across groups. Significant segregation is found among different county groups. The results suggest that within-group co-location probabilities (e.g., co-location probabilities among counties with high numbers of cases) remain stable, and social distancing policies primarily resulted in reduced cross-group co-location probabilities (due to travel reduction from counties with large number of cases to counties with low numbers of cases). These findings could have important practical implications for local governments to inform their intervention measures for monitoring and reducing the spread of COVID-19, as well as for adoption in future pandemics. Public policy, economic forecasting, and epidemic modeling need to account for population co-location patterns in evaluating transmission risk of COVID-19 across counties.« less
  4. CONTEXT With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting response from universities, engineering students find themselves in an unprecedented situation. In addition to stressors related to the curriculum, residential students across the United States are being asked to relocate away from campus and engage in distance learning. At the same time, social distancing requirements are limiting students’ ability to socialize, procure food and supplies, exercise, and remain employed and financially solvent. Some students will fall ill while others face the prospect of sick family members, and even deaths in the family. Prior research suggests that individuals living throughmore »this pandemic are likely to face stress, uncertainty, and fear that affects their mental health and academic performance for years to come. PURPOSE OR GOAL The purpose of this study was to understand the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting engineering students’ mental wellness, specifically stress, and how the effects differ for different groups of students. The research questions addressed are: 1) What effects has the pandemic had on baseline stress levels, and how do those vary by demographic group? 2) What effects has the pandemic had on quality of life, such as sleep habits and financial security, and how do those vary by demographic group? METHODS An online survey was conducted in the United States in May and June of 2020. More than 800 4-year engineering students who represented many engineering disciplines and universities responded. The survey used a modified version of the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale, which is a widely used and validated instrument to measure the effects of certain life events on stress. The data was analysed to determine the average increase in stress levels for students resulting from COVID-19, and which demographic groups have seen the most negative impact. We also report on which stress-inducing life-events were experienced most. OUTCOMES Latinx individuals and international students report statistically significantly higher levels of stress than the baseline population. Engineering students from other historically excluded identities, however,are not facing statistically significantly worse stress than their peers from historically over represented identities. Veterans fare better than the majority population on this metric.The data also indicates that different groups are more likely to experience different negative life-events because of COVID. CONCLUSIONS No previous research has examined the impacts of a global pandemic on engineering student stress and mental wellness. Our findings show that stress and mental wellness need to be understood intersectionally and that some underrepresented groups are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Understanding the impacts on students can help universities strategize and allocate limited resources most effectively to support student success. KEYWORDS Mental wellness; COVID-19; stress« less
  5. Background Population mobility is closely associated with COVID-19 transmission, and it could be used as a proximal indicator to predict future outbreaks, which could inform proactive nonpharmaceutical interventions for disease control. South Carolina is one of the US states that reopened early, following which it experienced a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. Objective The aims of this study are to examine the spatial-temporal relationship between population mobility and COVID-19 outbreaks and use population mobility data to predict daily new cases at both the state and county level in South Carolina. Methods This longitudinal study used disease surveillance data and Twitter-basedmore »population mobility data from March 6 to November 11, 2020, in South Carolina and its five counties with the largest number of cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases. Population mobility was assessed based on the number of Twitter users with a travel distance greater than 0.5 miles. A Poisson count time series model was employed for COVID-19 forecasting. Results Population mobility was positively associated with state-level daily COVID-19 incidence as well as incidence in the top five counties (ie, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Spartanburg, and Richland). At the state level, the final model with a time window within the last 7 days had the smallest prediction error, and the prediction accuracy was as high as 98.7%, 90.9%, and 81.6% for the next 3, 7, and 14 days, respectively. Among Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Spartanburg, and Richland counties, the best predictive models were established based on their observations in the last 9, 14, 28, 20, and 9 days, respectively. The 14-day prediction accuracy ranged from 60.3%-74.5%. Conclusions Using Twitter-based population mobility data could provide acceptable predictions of COVID-19 daily new cases at both the state and county level in South Carolina. Population mobility measured via social media data could inform proactive measures and resource relocations to curb disease outbreaks and their negative influences.« less