Helping Cities Decide Safe Opening Protocols during COVID

Helping to fight COVID-19 and aid public officials in decision making; that’s what Assistant Professor Sachit Butail, Ph.D. and former graduate student Malav Thakore have made the subject of their recent research that was published in Advanced Theory and Simulations in collaboration with Maurizio Porfiri, Agnieszka Truszkowska and Zhong-Ping Jiang from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, along with researchers from University of Groningen (Lorenzo Zino), Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Emanuele Caroppo) and Politecnico di Torino (Alessandro Rizzo).

The research team designed the study which encodes mobility patterns and demographics into a highly detailed representation of a town through a mathematical technique called agent-based modeling. The team used the model to conduct a large-scale simulation while assigning properties to individual agents such as getting infected, receiving treatment, traveling to work, etc. This approach enabled the researchers to test the effects of hypothetical, what-if, scenarios that would be otherwise impossible to study.

For example, the researchers were interested in the interplay between vaccination rates and reopening rates on the spread of COVID-19. Using the agent-based model, they were able to simulate a large set of scenarios with different reopening rates and vaccination rates to determine what combinations are safe. The results are expected to inform decision-making.

“I am happy to be able to contribute data and results that can help make informed decisions, especially considering the conflicting views regarding reopening rates,” said Butail. “The approach we have developed here is grounded in the high-resolution representation of a small town in New York state reproduced in simulation. In a way, the results confirm that we should be careful about reopening too fast unless we have the vaccination rates to offset the increased mobility. The fact that the approach is grounded in real-world data of demographics and mobility patterns gives me confidence in the validity of the results.”



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