Paul L. Caron

Friday, May 15, 2020

Modeling The Spread Of COVID-19 At UCLA

Daily Bruin, Modeling the Spread of COVID-19 in UCLA Classrooms:

Key takeaways

  • According to our model of the undergraduate student network, each UCLA student shares a class with 228 other students on average.
  • Our simulation shows that with an R0 value of 5.7, 94% of UCLA undergraduates could be infected by the end of fall quarter, and with an R0 value of 2.0, 8% of UCLA undergraduates could be infected.

In the middle of a global pandemic, uncertainty has become the new normal. Many states across the country are now beginning to lift restrictions, but colleges must weigh the difficult decision of how to keep students and staff safe while still providing a quality education. While UCLA has already decided to move summer sessions A and C online, the fate of fall quarter is still up in the air. Crowded lecture halls and dorm rooms make it nearly impossible for students to practice social distancing without a disruption to normal college life. As UCLA grapples with whether to welcome students back to campus in the fall, The Stack examines how quickly COVID-19 could spread through the undergraduate student body. Inspired by professor Kim Weeden’s model of course enrollment networks at Cornell University, we created our own model of how connected UCLA students are based on the classes they enroll in. We also thank Professor Mason Porter and Professor Stephanie Wang from the UCLA Math department for providing guidance on modeling the student networks and for their constructive comments in the development of this piece. ...

In our model network, students had an average of 228 connections. We ran the simulation 100 times from week 0 to finals week with an R0 value of 5.7, and found that on average, 94% of students were infected by the end of fall quarter. The peak of new cases occurred at week 6 with over 11,000 new cases. With a smaller R0 of 2.0, we found that 8% of students were infected by the end of fall quarter. We also calculated the average number of infections over 100 runs for several different values of R0. The following chart shows the number of people infected on average through the 11 weeks, for varying values of R0:


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With due respect to UCLA, these models are largely worthless. They are only as good as their assumptions. The models predicted deaths in the millions in the USA by this point. The reality is 1/100 of that.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | May 15, 2020 2:33:32 AM

Instead of theorizing, why not look at the actual experiences of colleges that have been open during the pandemic? Liberty kept 1,500 students on campus in the spring and had zero infections. The virus was widely circulating in New York City in February and March. Were there outbreaks in dormitories? I’m aware of just one at some house at Columbia that housed international students. How about in Europe? There was a small outbreak at Oxford, which stayed open. Not sure it involved more than a handful of students. How about these real data points?

Posted by: Peter Crawford | May 16, 2020 8:59:41 AM

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