The theme for the third day was modeling and simulation, with emphasis on COVID-19.
In the morning, we discussed the report “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand” by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, March 16, 2020. Of particular interest was the question how this report became influential on public policy in the UK: the lockdown order was issued only a few days after the report was made public. Chris highlighted the critical role of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), especially two members (Neil Ferguson and Dominic Cummings), their access to government officials and members of the scientific community. The fact that Boris Johnson caught the virus at the right moment may have played a role as well. Other factors were mentioned in our group discussion: the report is easy to read, the scenarios for mitigation described in the report are reasonable and not impossible to implement, the authors hit the sweet spot between science and policy.
Next, we all watched a recording of a talk given by a biostatistician, Daniela De Angelis, at the Newton Institute at Cambridge, England, on May 22, 2020. The speaker discussed the development timeline and some of the details of the simulator used for “nowcasting” and forecasting of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. The simulator grew out of a code developed for the H1N1 virus pandemic in 2009; further development was supported by the government, and the code was “ready” to go when COVID-19 hit. The code uses an age-structured SEIR model; parameters are updated as data become available.
During lunch, the students visited with the mentors. After lunch, Sarah led us through an interactive session on behavior and experiences in group activities, both in-person and online. A Tai Chi session led by Maria provided a welcome break. The remainder of the afternoon was spent in exploring three pre-selected epidemic simulators.
Explore the simulators, comment on their capabilities, try them out.