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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 22, 2023
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  6. Efficient contact tracing and isolation is an effective strategy to control epidemics. It was used effectively during the Ebola epidemic and successfully implemented in several parts of the world during the ongoing 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. In this paper, we present a Markov Decision Process (MDP) framework to formulate the problem of using contact tracing to reduce the size of an outbreak while asking a limited number of people to quarantine. We formulate each step of themore »MDP as a combinatorial problem, MinExposed, which we demonstrate is NP-Hard; as a result, we develop an LP-based approximation algorithm. Though this algorithm directly solves MinExposed, it is often impractical in the real world due to information constraints. To this end, we develop a greedy approach based on insights from the analysis of the previous algorithm, which we show is more interpretable. A key feature of the greedy algorithm is that it does not need complete information of the underlying social contact network. This makes the heuristic implementable in practice and is an important consideration. Finally, we carry out experiments on simulations of the MDP run on real-world networks, and show how the algorithms can help in bending the epidemic curve while limiting the number of isolated individuals. Our experimental results demonstrate that the greedy algorithm and its variants are especially effective, robust, and practical in a variety of realistic scenarios, such as when the contact graph and specific transmission probabilities are not known. All code can be found in our GitHub repository: this https URL.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 14, 2023
  7. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of developing reliable forecasts that would allow decision makers to devise appropriate response strategies. Despite much recent research on the topic, epidemic forecasting remains poorly understood. Researchers have attributed the difficulty of forecasting contagion dynamics to a multitude of factors, including complex behavioral responses, uncertainty in data, the stochastic nature of the underlying process, and the high sensitivity of the disease parameters to changes in the environment. We offer a rigorous explanation of the difficulty of short-term forecasting on networked populations using ideas from computational complexity. Specifically, we show that several forecasting problemsmore »(e.g., the probability that at least a given number of people will get infected at a given time and the probability that the number of infections will reach a peak at a given time) are computationally intractable. For instance, efficient solvability of such problems would imply that the number of satisfying assignments of an arbitrary Boolean formula in conjunctive normal form can be computed efficiently, violating a widely believed hypothesis in computational complexity. This intractability result holds even under the ideal situation, where all the disease parameters are known and are assumed to be insensitive to changes in the environment. From a computational complexity viewpoint, our results, which show that contagion dynamics become unpredictable for both macroscopic and individual properties, bring out some fundamental difficulties of predicting disease parameters. On the positive side, we develop efficient algorithms or approximation algorithms for restricted versions of forecasting problems.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 25, 2023
  8. We study evacuation dynamics in a major urban region (Miami, FL) using a combination of a realistic population and social contact network, and an agent-based model of evacuation behavior that takes into account peer influence and concerns of looting. These factors have been shown to be important in prior work, and have been modeled as a threshold-based network dynamical systems model (2mode-threshold), which involves two threshold parameters|for a family's decision to evacuate and to remain in place for looting and crime concerns|based on the fraction of neighbors who have evacuated. The dynamics of such models are not well understood, andmore »we observe that the threshold parameters have a significant impact on the evacuation dynamics. We also observe counter-intuitive effects of increasing the evacuation threshold on the evacuated fraction in some regimes of the model parameter space, which suggests that the details of realistic networks matter in designing policies.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  9. Data from surveys administered after Hurricane Sandy provide a wealth of information that can be used to develop models of evacuation decision-making. We use a model based on survey data for predicting whether or not a family will evacuate. The model uses 26 features for each household including its neighborhood characteristics. We augment a 1.7 million node household-level synthetic social network of Miami, Florida with public data for the requisite model features so that our population is consistent with the survey-based model. Results show that household features that drive hurricane evacuations dominate the effects of specifying large numbers of familiesmore »as \early evacuators" in a contagion process, and also dominate effects of peer influence to evacuate. There is a strong network-based evacuation suppression effect from the fear of looting. We also study spatial factors affecting evacuation rates as well as policy interventions to encourage evacuation.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  10. Abstract This research measures the epidemiological and economic impact of COVID-19 spread in the US under different mitigation scenarios, comprising of non-pharmaceutical interventions. A detailed disease model of COVID-19 is combined with a model of the US economy to estimate the direct impact of labor supply shock to each sector arising from morbidity, mortality, and lockdown, as well as the indirect impact caused by the interdependencies between sectors. During a lockdown, estimates of jobs that are workable from home in each sector are used to modify the shock to labor supply. Results show trade-offs between economic losses, and lives savedmore »and infections averted are non-linear in compliance to social distancing and the duration of the lockdown. Sectors that are worst hit are not the labor-intensive sectors such as the Agriculture sector and the Construction sector, but the ones with high valued jobs such as the Professional Services, even after the teleworkability of jobs is accounted for. Additionally, the findings show that a low compliance to interventions can be overcome by a longer shutdown period and vice versa to arrive at similar epidemiological impact but their net effect on economic loss depends on the interplay between the marginal gains from averting infections and deaths, versus the marginal loss from having healthy workers stay at home during the shutdown.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022