The control of the initial outbreak and spread of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 via the application of population-wide non-pharmaceutical mitigation measures have led to remarkable successes in dampening the pandemic globally. However, with countries beginning to ease or lift these measures fully to restart activities, concern is growing regarding the impacts that such reopening of societies could have on the subsequent transmission of the virus. While mathematical models of COVID-19 transmission have played important roles in evaluating the impacts of these measures for curbing virus transmission, a key need is for models that are able to effectively capture the effects of the spatial and social heterogeneities that drive the epidemic dynamics observed at the local community level. Iterative forecasting that uses new incoming epidemiological and social behavioral data to sequentially update locally-applicable transmission models can overcome this gap, potentially resulting in better predictions and policy actions. Here, we present the development of one such data-driven iterative modelling tool based on publicly available data and an extended SEIR model for forecasting SARS-CoV-2 at the county level in the United States. Using data from the state of Florida, we demonstrate the utility of such a system for exploring the outcomes of the social measures proposed by policy makers for containing the course of the pandemic. We provide comprehensive results showing how the locally identified models could be employed for accessing the impacts and societal tradeoffs of using specific social protective strategies. We conclude that it could have been possible to lift the more disruptive social interventions related to movement restriction/social distancing measures earlier if these were accompanied by widespread testing and contact tracing. These intensified social interventions could have potentially also brought about the control of the epidemic in low- and some medium-incidence county settings first, supporting the development and deployment of a geographically-phased approach to reopening the economy of Florida. We have made our data-driven forecasting system publicly available for policymakers and health officials to use in their own locales, so that a more efficient coordinated strategy for controlling SARS-CoV-2 region-wide can be developed and successfully implemented.
Fuente: Scientific Reports