skip to main content

Title: Intracounty modeling of COVID-19 infection with human mobility: Assessing spatial heterogeneity with business traffic, age, and race

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global threat presenting health, economic, and social challenges that continue to escalate. Metapopulation epidemic modeling studies in the susceptible–exposed–infectious–removed (SEIR) style have played important roles in informing public health policy making to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These models typically rely on a key assumption on the homogeneity of the population. This assumption certainly cannot be expected to hold true in real situations; various geographic, socioeconomic, and cultural environments affect the behaviors that drive the spread of COVID-19 in different communities. What’s more, variation of intracounty environments creates spatial heterogeneity of transmission in different regions. To address this issue, we develop a human mobility flow-augmented stochastic SEIR-style epidemic modeling framework with the ability to distinguish different regions and their corresponding behaviors. This modeling framework is then combined with data assimilation and machine learning techniques to reconstruct the historical growth trajectories of COVID-19 confirmed cases in two counties in Wisconsin. The associations between the spread of COVID-19 and business foot traffic, race and ethnicity, and age structure are then investigated. The results reveal that, in a college town (Dane County), the most important heterogeneity is age structure, while, in a large city area (Milwaukee County), racial more » and ethnic heterogeneity becomes more apparent. Scenario studies further indicate a strong response of the spread rate to various reopening policies, which suggests that policy makers may need to take these heterogeneities into account very carefully when designing policies for mitigating the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and reopening.

« less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
2001200 2023239 2027375
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10232243
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume:
118
Issue:
24
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. e2020524118
ISSN:
0027-8424
Publisher:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. 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
  2. Risk perception and risk averting behaviors of public agencies in the emergence and spread of COVID-19 can be retrieved through online social media (Twitter), and such interactions can be echoed in other information outlets. This study collected time-sensitive online social media data and analyzed patterns of health risk communication of public health and emergency agencies in the emergence and spread of novel coronavirus using data-driven methods. The major focus is toward understanding how policy-making agencies communicate risk and response information through social media during a pandemic and influence community response—ie, timing of lockdown, timing of reopening, etc.—and disease outbreak indicators—ie,more »number of confirmed cases and number of deaths. Twitter data of six major public organizations (1,000-4,500 tweets per organization) are collected from February 21, 2020 to June 6, 2020. Several machine learning algorithms, including dynamic topic model and sentiment analysis, are applied over time to identify the topic dynamics over the specific timeline of the pandemic. Organizations emphasized on various topics—eg, importance of wearing face mask, home quarantine, understanding the symptoms, social distancing and contact tracing, emerging community transmission, lack of personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing and medical supplies, effect of tobacco, pandemic stress management, increasing hospitalization rate, upcoming hurricane season, use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 treatment, maintaining hygiene, and the role of healthcare podcast in different timeline. The findings can benefit emergency management, policymakers, and public health agencies to identify targeted information dissemination policies for public with diverse needs based on how local, federal, and international agencies reacted to COVID-19.« less
  3. Borri, Alessandro (Ed.)
    Ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, various public health control strategies have been proposed and tested against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. We study three specific COVID-19 epidemic control models: the susceptible, exposed, infectious, recovered (SEIR) model with vaccination control; the SEIR model with shield immunity control; and the susceptible, un-quarantined infected, quarantined infected, confirmed infected (SUQC) model with quarantine control. We express the control requirement in metric temporal logic (MTL) formulas (a type of formal specification languages) which can specify the expected control outcomes such as “ the deaths from the infection should never exceed one thousand per daymore »within the next three months ” or “ the population immune from the disease should eventually exceed 200 thousand within the next 100 to 120 days ”. We then develop methods for synthesizing control strategies with MTL specifications. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper to systematically synthesize control strategies based on the COVID-19 epidemic models with formal specifications. We provide simulation results in three different case studies: vaccination control for the COVID-19 epidemic with model parameters estimated from data in Lombardy, Italy; shield immunity control for the COVID-19 epidemic with model parameters estimated from data in Lombardy, Italy; and quarantine control for the COVID-19 epidemic with model parameters estimated from data in Wuhan, China. The results show that the proposed synthesis approach can generate control inputs such that the time-varying numbers of individuals in each category (e.g., infectious, immune) satisfy the MTL specifications. The results also show that early intervention is essential in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and more control effort is needed for more stringent MTL specifications. For example, based on the model in Lombardy, Italy, achieving less than 100 deaths per day and 10000 total deaths within 100 days requires 441.7% more vaccination control effort than achieving less than 1000 deaths per day and 50000 total deaths within 100 days.« less
  4. During the Covid-19 pandemic a key role is played by vaccination to combat the virus. There are many possible policies for prioritizing vaccines, and different criteria for optimization: minimize death, time to herd immunity, functioning of the health system. Using an age-structured population compartmental finite-dimensional optimal control model, our results suggest that the eldest to youngest vaccination policy is optimal to minimize deaths. Our model includes the possible infection of vaccinated populations. We apply our model to real-life data from the US Census for New Jersey and Florida, which have a significantly different population structure. We also provide variousmore »estimates of the number of lives saved by optimizing the vaccine schedule and compared to no vaccination.

    « less
  5. Abstract The objective of this study was to investigate the importance of multiple county-level features in the trajectory of COVID-19. We examined feature importance across 2787 counties in the United States using data-driven machine learning models. Existing mathematical models of disease spread usually focused on the case prediction with different infection rates without incorporating multiple heterogeneous features that could impact the spatial and temporal trajectory of COVID-19. Recognizing this, we trained a data-driven model using 23 features representing six key influencing factors affecting the pandemic spread: social demographics of counties, population activities, mobility within the counties, movement across counties, diseasemore »attributes, and social network structure. Also, we categorized counties into multiple groups according to their population densities, and we divided the trajectory of COVID-19 into three stages: the outbreak stage, the social distancing stage, and the reopening stage. The study aimed to answer two research questions: (1) The extent to which the importance of heterogeneous features evolved at different stages; (2) The extent to which the importance of heterogeneous features varied across counties with different characteristics. We fitted a set of random forest models to determine weekly feature importance. The results showed that: (1) Social demographic features, such as gross domestic product, population density, and minority status maintained high-importance features throughout stages of COVID-19 across 2787 studied counties; (2) Within-county mobility features had the highest importance in counties with higher population densities; (3) The feature reflecting the social network structure (Facebook, social connectedness index), had higher importance for counties with higher population densities. The results showed that the data-driven machine learning models could provide important insights to inform policymakers regarding feature importance for counties with various population densities and at different stages of a pandemic life cycle.« less