Irvine, Calif., Sept. 15, 2020 – A months-long collaboration between the University of California, Irvine, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Orange County Health Care Agency has resulted in a new Orange County COVID-19 website that tracks the spread of the disease and forecasts future trends.
By feeding county data into a coronavirus transmission model, the site estimates “current and future numbers of infectious individuals in Orange County, which is important for understanding risks of getting infected,” said Vladimir Minin, UCI professor of statistics and associate director of the UCI Infectious Disease Science Initiative.
Minin illustrated how useful the information provided on the site can be.
“Suppose our estimate says 30,000 people are infectious in Orange County today; that means 1 percent of the county’s residents can transmit the coronavirus to others,” he said. “If you enter a grocery store with about 100 people in it, you should expect to have one infectious individual be in the store with you. Our situation report offers a simplified but useful way of thinking about these numbers.”
Regularly updated and archived, the site estimates how many coronavirus infections actually occurred rather than the number of infections reported, how many infectious individuals Orange County has on any given day and how quickly the virus is spreading. The researchers in UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Science also produce short-term forecasts of COVID-19 deaths.
The current situation report covers July 28 through Sept. 1. It shows that the effective reproduction number — which measures the rate at which infections are growing or declining — is currently below 1, which means Orange County is successfully suppressing coronavirus spread.
However, residents need to remain vigilant, said Minin, because even though the number of infectious individuals is declining in the county, the model predicts their number on any given day will remain in the tens of thousands through the end of September.
The researchers hope their method and reports will encourage data-driven decision making in Orange County. “The main target audience is public health officials and policymakers,” said Minin. “But we are trying to make the reports easy to understand for the general public as well.”
The project, further detailed in a manuscript posted on the arXiv public-access server, is a follow-up to another website Minin’s team and collaborators helped create last month to visualize county-level data.
“The first portal gives you a look at what is known—data—while the second uses modeling and statistical analysis to peek into the unknown,” he said.
Minin developed the model and O.C. COVID situation report in collaboration with Damon Bayer and Isaac Goldstein, UCI Ph.D. students in statistics. The project also included Jon Fintzi, Keith Lumbard and Emily Ricotta from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Richard Chhuon, Alissa Dratch and Matthew Zahn of the Orange County Health Care Agency. The work was partly supported with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the UCI Infectious Disease Science Initiative.
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.
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