COVID-19: Researchers to model novel coronavirus for spread mitigation

Newswise — UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In an effort to help mitigate the disruptive effects of the deadly COVID-19 virus, an interdisciplinary team of Penn State researchers are developing a novel methodology to analyze its spread and the impacts on policy with a goal of creating better-prepared and more-resilient health care systems.

The team, with faculty from Penn State’s College of Engineering, College of Health and Human Development and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, received a $200,000 grant for Rapid Response Research from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Hui Yang, associate professor in the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) and director of the Penn State Center for Health Organization Transformation (CHOT), will leverage data analytics and simulation models to gain a better understanding of how human movement spreads the virus across geographic locations. This understanding has implications for three types of crisis strategies: regional health care infrastructure, regulatory measures, and transparent information distribution.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, Yang will simulate transmission rates of COVID-19 in local, state and federal capacities. 

“If there is a specific geographic region and ill people move to it, then healthy people will be at risk, so how can we model this and respond to the virus spread?” Yang asked. “This is a resource allocation problem and needs strategic decision making; for example, health care is a resource.” 

Health policy experts in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) will weigh in on strategic decision making and public interventions based on this data. The HHD team will use the data and simulation models to investigate how various policies and infectious disease control can help health care systems become more resilient and respond more efficiently to disruptive events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dennis Scanlon, distinguished professor of health policy and administration, said that several features of the novel coronavirus make it unique, which creates uncertainty for policy makers.  For example, the high degree of infectiousness, the ability for asymptomatic individuals to spread the virus, and the lack of good data on the underlying population infection rate are important factors when developing simulation models.

“We’re learning new things about the virus every day,” Scanlon said. “Underlying the magnitude of this crisis is the type of health care that people need and the limited resources that we have in the United States. For policy makers, this requires quick decisions with uncertain information. Inevitably, some decisions will be less than optimal.”

Dr. Christopher DeFlitch is the chief medical information officer and an emergency physician for the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and a professor at Penn State College of Medicine. Nearly 10 years ago, he founded the Penn State CHOT, and he is a long-standing member of NSF CHOT. DeFlitch has worked with Yang in the center for more than two years.

DeFlitch sees this new project as an opportunity to collaborate and help alleviate some stress for the medical professionals that are currently going “above and beyond” in their line of duty to provide bedside care.

“Through Penn State and NSF, this is an incredibly passionate, smart group of people coming together to solve a very hard problem,” DeFlitch said. “This is the first pandemic of our lifetime, and it has potential long-lasting impacts for our health care delivery systems. It’s critical to bring together this team to provide theoretical and practical problem-solving approaches, and Penn State, as a research powerhouse, is the place to do it.”

Yunfeng Shi, assistant professor of health policy and administration, said that everyone has a stake in this pandemic and that the new collaborative research can help potentially improve reactions.

“I was trained as an interdisciplinary researcher, so I believe that working across disciplines to holistically analyze this issue provides an important perspective to better address the current problem and future crises,” Shi said.

Marta Ventura and Yidan Wang, IME doctoral students and members of CHOT, will assist on the project. 

“We have to do what we can, where we are, right now,” Yang said. “Our team has complementary expertise; we can work together, and we can do this no matter where we are. The mission of Penn State CHOT is to advance the knowledge and practice of transformational strategies in evidenced-based health care management and clinical practice. We can help now and for the future.”

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 3446
Released: 29-Sep-2020 7:05 PM EDT
Research into SARS-CoV-2 mutation “hotspots” raises implications for vaccines and therapeutics
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Researchers have found at least 10 distinct “hotspot” mutations in more than 80% of randomly selected SAR-CoV-2 sequences from six countries, and these genome hotspots – seen as "typos" that can occur as the virus replicates during cellular division – could have a significant impact in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newswise: New “Buzz” about Fighting COVID-19 at Baltimore-Area Barbershops
Released: 29-Sep-2020 6:30 PM EDT
New “Buzz” about Fighting COVID-19 at Baltimore-Area Barbershops
LifeBridge Health

LifeBridge Health Partners with Live Chair Health to Offer Coronavirus Support And Expansion of Barbershop Health Screening Program

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 30-Sep-2020 7:05 PM EDT Released to reporters: 29-Sep-2020 5:05 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 30-Sep-2020 7:05 PM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Newswise: Eccles School Launches Postdoctoral Program in Entrepreneurship & Strategy
Released: 29-Sep-2020 4:45 PM EDT
Eccles School Launches Postdoctoral Program in Entrepreneurship & Strategy
University of Utah, David Eccles School of Business

The Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business launched a new postdoctoral fellowship program with the hire of Maria Kurakina, a young scholar with a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

Released: 29-Sep-2020 4:35 PM EDT
Study supports airborne spread of COVID-19 indoors
University of Georgia

New research from the University of Georgia supports growing evidence for airborne transmission of COVID-19 in enclosed spaces.

Newswise: 244300_web.jpg
Released: 29-Sep-2020 3:35 PM EDT
Conversation quickly spreads droplets inside buildings
Princeton University School of Engineering and Applied Science

With implications for the transmission of diseases like COVID-19, researchers have found that ordinary conversation creates a conical 'jet-like' airflow that quickly carries a spray of tiny droplets from a speaker's mouth across meters of an interior space.

Released: 29-Sep-2020 2:25 PM EDT
VirScan offers new insights into COVID-19 antibody response
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

A tool designed to detect viral history in a drop of blood has gotten an upgrade in the age of COVID-19.

Newswise: 244362_web.jpg
Released: 29-Sep-2020 1:50 PM EDT
In a field where smaller is better, researchers discover the world's tiniest antibodies
University of Bath

Researchers at the University of Bath in the UK and biopharma company UCB have found a way to produce miniaturised antibodies, opening the way for a potential new class of treatments for diseases.

Showing results

110 of 3446