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  1. Developing techniques to infer the behavior of networked social systems has attracted a lot of attention in the literature. Using a discrete dynamical system to model a networked social system, the problem of inferring the behavior of the system can be formulated as the problem of learning the local functions of the dynamical system. We investigate the problem assuming an active form of interaction with the system through queries. We consider two classes of local functions (namely, symmetric and threshold functions) and two interaction modes, namely batch (where all the queries must be submitted together) and adaptive (where the set of queries submitted at a stage may rely on the answers to previous queries). We establish bounds on the number of queries under both batch and adaptive query modes using vertex coloring and probabilistic methods. Our results show that a small number of appropriately chosen queries are provably sufficient to correctly learn all the local functions. We develop complexity results which suggest that, in general, the problem of generating query sets of minimum size is computationally intractable. We present efficient heuristics that produce query sets under both batch and adaptive query modes. Also, we present a query compaction algorithm that identifies and removes redundant queries from a given query set. Our algorithms were evaluated through experiments on over 20 well-known networks. 
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  2. ABSTRACT Evacuation plans are designed to move people to safety in case of a disaster. It mainly consists of two components: routing and scheduling. Joint optimization of these two components with the goal of minimizing total evacuation time is a computationally hard problem, specifically when the problem instance is large. Moreover, often in disaster situations, there is uncertainty regarding the passability of roads throughout the evacuation time period. In this paper, we present a way to model the time-varying risk associated with roads in disaster situations. We also design a heuristic method based on the well known Large Neighborhood Search framework to perform the joint optimization task. We use real-world road network and population data from Harris County in Houston, Texas and apply our heuristic to find evacuation routes and schedules for the area. We show that the proposed method is able to find good solutions within a reasonable amount of time. We also perform agent-based simulations of the evacuation using these solutions to evaluate their quality and efficacy. 
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  3. In response to COVID-19, many countries have mandated social distancing and banned large group gatherings in order to slow down the spread of SARS-CoV-2. These social interventions along with vaccines remain the best way forward to reduce the spread of SARS CoV-2. In order to increase vaccine accessibility, states such as Virginia have deployed mobile vaccination centers to distribute vaccines across the state. When choosing where to place these sites, there are two important factors to take into account: accessibility and equity. We formulate a combinatorial problem that captures these factors and then develop efficient algorithms with theoretical guarantees on both of these aspects. Furthermore, we study the inherent hardness of the problem, and demonstrate strong impossibility results. Finally, we run computational experiments on real-world data to show the efficacy of our methods. 
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  4. ABSTRACT Efficient contact tracing and isolation is an effective strategy to control epidemics, as seen in the Ebola epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic. An important consideration in contact tracing is the budget on the number of individuals asked to quarantine—the budget is limited for socioeconomic reasons (e.g., having a limited number of contact tracers). Here, we present a Markov Decision Process (MDP) framework to formulate the problem of using contact tracing to reduce the size of an outbreak while limiting the number of people quarantined. We formulate each step of the MDP as a combinatorial problem, MinExposed, which we demonstrate is NP-Hard. Next, we develop two approximation algorithms, one based on rounding the solutions of a linear program and another (greedy algorithm) based on choosing nodes with a high (weighted) degree. A key feature of the greedy algorithm is that it does not need complete information of the underlying social contact network, making it implementable in practice. Using simulations over realistic networks, we show how the algorithms can help in bending the epidemic curve with a limited number of isolated individuals. 
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  5. Many papers have addressed the problem of learning the behavior (i.e., the local interaction function at each node) of a networked system through active queries, assuming that the network topology is known. We address the problem of inferring both the network topology and the behavior of such a system through active queries. Our results are for systems where the state of each node is from {0, 1} and the local functions are Boolean. We present inference algorithms under both batch and adaptive query models for dynamical systems with symmetric local functions. These algorithms show that the structure and behavior of such dynamical systems can be learnt using only a polynomial number of queries. Further, we establish a lower bound on the number of queries needed to learn such dynamical systems. We also present experimental results obtained by running our algorithms on synthetic and real-world networks. 
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  6. Efficient contact tracing and isolation is an effective strategy to control epidemics, as seen in the Ebola epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic. An important consideration in contact tracing is the budget on the number of individuals asked to quarantine—the budget is limited for socioeconomic reasons (e.g., having a limited number of contact tracers). Here, we present a Markov Decision Process (MDP) framework to formulate the problem of using contact tracing to reduce the size of an outbreak while limiting the number of people quarantined. We formulate each step of the MDP as a combinatorial problem, MinExposed, which we demonstrate is NP-Hard. Next, we develop two approximation algorithms, one based on rounding the solutions of a linear program and another (greedy algorithm) based on choosing nodes with a high (weighted) degree. A key feature of the greedy algorithm is that it does not need complete information of the underlying social contact network, making it implementable in practice. Using simulations over realistic networks, we show how the algorithms can help in bending the epidemic curve with a limited number of isolated individuals. 
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  7. Tracking the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major challenge for policy makers. Although, several efforts are ongoing for accurate forecasting of cases, deaths, and hospitalization at various resolutions, few have been attempted for college campuses despite their potential to become COVID-19 hot-spots. In this paper, we present a real-time effort towards weekly forecasting of campus-level cases during the fall semester for four universities in Virginia, United States. We discuss the challenges related to data curation. A causal model is employed for forecasting with one free time-varying parameter, calibrated against case data. The model is then run forward in time to obtain multiple forecasts. We retrospectively evaluate the performance and, while forecast quality suffers during the campus reopening phase, the model makes reasonable forecasts as the fall semester progresses. We provide sensitivity analysis for the several model parameters. In addition, the forecasts are provided weekly to various state and local agencies. 
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  8. High resolution mobility datasets have become increasingly available in the past few years and have enabled detailed models for infectious disease spread including those for COVID-19. However, there are open questions on how such a mobility data can be used effectively within epidemic models and for which tasks they are best suited. In this paper, we extract a number of graph-based proximity metrics from high resolution cellphone trace data from X-Mode and use it to study COVID-19 epidemic spread in 50 land grant university counties in the US. We present an approach to estimate the effect of mobility on cases by fitting an ODE based model and performing multivariate linear regression to explain the estimated time varying transmissibility. We find that, while mobility plays a significant role, the contribution is heterogeneous across the counties, as exemplified by a subsequent correlation analysis. We subsequently evaluate the metrics’ utility for case surge prediction defined as a supervised classification problem, and show that the learnt model can predict surges with 95% accuracy and 87% F1-score. 
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  9. The deployment of vaccines across the US provides significant defense against serious illness and death from COVID-19. Over 70% of vaccine-eligible Americans are at least partially vaccinated, but there are pockets of the population that are under-vaccinated, such as in rural areas and some demographic groups (e.g. age, race, ethnicity). These unvaccinated pockets are extremely susceptible to the Delta variant, exacerbating the healthcare crisis and increasing the risk of new variants. In this paper, we describe a data-driven model that provides real-time support to Virginia public health officials by recommending mobile vaccination site placement in order to target under-vaccinated populations. Our strategy uses fine-grained mobility data, along with US Census and vaccination uptake data, to identify locations that are most likely to be visited by unvaccinated individuals. We further extend our model to choose locations that maximize vaccine uptake among hesitant groups. We show that the top recommended sites vary substantially across some demographics, demonstrating the value of developing customized recommendation models that integrate fine-grained, heterogeneous data sources. In addition, we used a statistically equivalent Synthetic Population to study the effect of combined demographics (eg, people of a particular race and age), which is not possible using US Census data alone. We validate our recommendations by analyzing the success rates of deployed vaccine sites, and show that sites placed closer to our recommended areas administered higher numbers of doses. Our model is the first of its kind to consider evolving mobility patterns in real-time for suggesting placement strategies customized for different targeted demographic groups. Our results will be presented at IAAI-22, but given the critical nature of the pandemic, we offer this extended version of that paper for more timely consideration of our approach and to cover additional findings. 
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