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Local mathematicians develop highly accurate COVID-19 forecast tool gauging Northeast Ohio spread

The algorithm is being used by Cuyahoga County to predict fluctuations in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Credit: 3News/Tableau

CLEVELAND — Researchers from Case Western Reserve and the University of Akron have developed a highly accurate algorithm being used by Cuyahoga County health officials to gague the spread of COVID-19 through Northeast Ohio.

"Our predictions of the number of new daily infections are quite accurate for two to three weeks ahead, and have been for a few months," said Daniela Calvetti, the James Wood Williamson Professor of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statics at Case Western Reserve. "This level of accuracy has been able to help institutions plan for the rise - and lately the downturn - in cases instead of reacting to them as they happen."

Calvetti is just one of multiple researchers from the two universities who informally gathered together to develop the model. Early findings were first made public in mid-June during a news conference with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, which continues to use the data for its forecasts.

The algorithm uses census population and mobility data to model commuter traffic and predict the spread of the virus from larger cities to surrounding suburban and rural settings.

"People are hungry for these numbers right now to inform their staffing decisions at hospitals or in other critical services," said group member Johnie Rose, a Preventive Medicine and Public Health physician and epidemiologist from the Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. "But tthe general public might like to see this information to help make decisions - and to illustrate the real-time, real-life importance of social distancing or wearing masks or limiting travel to slwo the spread of the virus," Rose continued. 

Regular forecasts will eventually be posted online for public viewing but are currently provided for the Board of Health and other institutions like hospitals.

The group of researchers began collaborating on a number of COVID-19 research projects in early April. Calvetti and Rose developed the algorithm with Erkki Somersalo, a mathematics professor at Case Western Reserve; and Alex Hoover, an assistant professor of applied mathematics at The University of Akron