This simple model shows the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.

The research summary is a brief overview of interesting academic work.

With the arrival of an infectious disease outbreak, epidemiologists and public health officials are soon trying to forecast deaths and infections using complex computer models. But with a new virus like the one causing COVID-19, these estimates are compounded by the paucity of credible information about symptoms, contagion, and those most at risk.

My team at the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research has developed a free and easy-to-use computer model that has a different purpose. It demonstrates how infections and deaths progress daily over a three-month period, depending on how people behave in response to the outbreak. This model allows the public to enter data that demonstrates how changes in security measures in their communities, including the use of facial covering and social distancing, can significantly affect the spread of this virus and death rates.

Our Goldenson Center model COVID-19 uses a hypothetical population of 1,000 people and calculates results using three types of information: baseline number of infections, social distancing, and personal protection measures including wearing masks, frequent hand washing, and staying quarantined if COVID-19 Symptoms are exhibited. Our model then uses this baseline information to project daily cumulative infections and deaths over a three-month period. It is not based on actual disease data and is designed to demonstrate the effects of safety measures, rather than making specific predictions.

This simple actuarial model uses general guidelines, rather than data and assumptions about COVID-19 specifically, to simulate the effect of security protocols. Here, a hypothetical group of 100 infected people out of a population of 1,000, with 10% observing good safety protocols, leads to hundreds of infections and deaths after three months.
Goldenson Center at the University of Connecticut, Author provided
This simulation shows the effect on the same hypothetical group of 100 infected people out of a group of 1,000 where 80% of people wear masks and practice social distancing, reducing the infection rate to almost zero after two months.
Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research, CC BY-NC-ND

Because it is important

By entering different assumptions, people can see how the personal actions of their community can change the course of this pandemic, and how poor protocols can cause the virus to spread exponentially.

For example, suppose 100 people are infected out of a population of 1,000, with one in 10 wearing masks, keeping the proper distance and quarantining if necessary. The model shows that 30 days later, the virus would have killed 156 people. After three months, the death toll reaches 460, with 510 now infected.

However, our model shows that if half the population practices safe protocols, infections after 90 days drop to 293, and deaths drop even more dramatically, to 149, about a third of lives lost under more flexible measures.

A sign promoting the use of masks is displayed at the entrance door of a primary school classroom in Eichenau, Germany. Numerous models show that the use of masks limits the COVID-19 transmission.
Christof Stache / Getty Images

The main conclusion is that the security measures under our control have a significant impact, and ignoring those protocols can have dire consequences.

If a state opens and maintains security measures for at least three months, the virus will be contained and possibly removed. On the other hand, if a state opens too soon and its residents ignore security protocols, there could be an exponential increase in COVID-19 deaths in a matter of months. It is important for the public to realize that the spread of the virus is only affected by personal behavior.

Whats Next?

Our model shows that there must be a continued emphasis on maintaining the necessary safety measures as we relax the shelter-in-place rules and get people back to work. Practicing common sense social distancing, wearing masks in public, and quarantining when necessary is a small inconvenience for a limited time, which will contain the devastation of this virus and ensure that our economy is restored.

[[[[You are too busy to read everything. We understand. That is why we have a weekly newsletter. Sign up for a good read on Sunday. ]