ORLANDO, Fla – Predicting COVID-19 infection rates and deaths is a task a team of five UCF researchers has been tackling since the start of the pandemic.
“One of the biggest responsibilities we have is we’ve been predicting forecasts since this time last year,” Timothy Sumner, one of the researchers on the team said. “We’ve been giving them to the CDC to utilize and base their forecasts off of which of course every policymaker and every official goes to the CDC as the resource.”
They are among 30 other teams nationwide who are collaborating with the Center for Control Disease and Prevention to examine the effects of the global pandemic and provide information to the public.
“Our model is one of the most accurate models in the entire CDC collection and it shows exactly the trend of COVID-19,” Dr. Liqiang Wang, team leader and associate professor for the Computer Science department at UCF said.
The researchers use a classical epidemiological model and upgraded it with new technology for their findings.
“Our work is kind of the groundbreaking technique about the epidemiological modeling. First, it incorporates artificial intelligence with this modeling process,” Dongdong Wang, a computer science doctoral student and researcher said. Dongdong developed an enhanced model. “The classical model is very useful for this pandemic. We try to integrate artificial intelligence with this reliable classical model.”
Their data provides numbers at state and national levels which show increases in weekly cases, increases in weekly deaths and hospitalizations.
“We could provide a faster response to the infections and help the government understand how to distribute the vaccine and other kinds of actions,” Dongdong Wang said.
Since last year, the team has been monitoring COVID-19 trends at a national level.
“We’ve been steadily decreasing for the past several months. To this day we’ve still been on the decline. Is it because of the vaccine? That question hasn’t been answered yet because a lot of people predicted it would rise with the vacations of the holidays with the flu season,” Sumner said. “It’s hard to say for certain it’s the vaccine but we definitely can say it has been in the decline since the beginning of this year.”
In terms of their predictions for when we will go back to normal? Dr. Wang has hope it will be soon.
“Right now, I know maybe it’s too early to do any kind of exact prediction; however, though we think that after vaccine and you’ll see right now the number of positive cases decrease sharply. We hope and everything maybe become normal in the summer,” Dr. Liqiang Wang said.