Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health
Since March 2020, the Center for Dissemination and Implementation at the Institute for Public Health has partnered with both the St. Louis region and the state of Missouri to provide data analysis and modeling related to COVID-19. These partnerships influenced the region to issue shelter-in-place orders sooner than they might have, allowed state officials to pinpoint virus hot spots, and helped city and county health departments track trends, see racial disparities, and respond to the ongoing emergency.
According to a contract with the state of Missouri, Dr. Elvin Geng, director of the Center, and his team have provided “projections on the disease and analysis to identify emerging hot spots.” The contract also called for studying the role of contact tracing.
The CDI helped to develop a epidemiological model of the COVID-19 epidemic (https://github.com/LocalEpi/LEMMA) that accepts local demographic, health systems, and hospitalization case counts to give regionally relevant projections of epidemic trajectory. The model has been used by the local health systems, informed the Pandemic Task Force, and has been integrated into the State’s response to anticipate hotspots, direct intensification of testing efforts, and inform regional policy makers of capacity. Unlike most modeling efforts, the Center focused on usability and functionality to make local projections, in recognition that the epidemic differs markedly from place to place, placing a range of distinctive demands on policy makers. Read Dr. Geng’s blog on the modeling effort.
“The state of Missouri has used and will continue to use data and the analysis of that data to help craft policy decisions, and to inform the public, members of the media and local governments,” says Chris Moreland, spokesperson for the state Office of Administration, in a Post-Dispatch article.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and as of Dec. 2020, Dr. Geng and team use the following maps to show COVID-19 susceptibility in Missouri.
Average Age of Cases
Above: Average Age of COVID-19 Cases by County
The lowest average in Boone County is due to a large outbreak among University of Missouri Students. COVID-19 cases among aging populations are at higher risk of hospitalization and death.
Susceptible Aging Population as of 12/1/2020
Left: Percentage of the Population 65 or Older and Susceptible to COVID-19
Right: Relative Size of The Susceptible Population 65 or Older
Large aging populations are at highest risk of hospitalization and death, so it is especially important to contain COVID-19 cases in these areas.
7 Day Average Testing Density (Tests/Population) and Positivity Rate (Cases/Tests)
October 1st — November 30th
Left: Weekly Average Percentage of Population Tested
Right: Weekly Average Positivity Rate
A successful testing strategy aims to both cover a sufficient fraction of the population and diagnose as many cases as possible.
As COVID-19 cases rage on and vaccines are being approved and slowly rolled out, the Center for Dissemination and Implementation will continue its vital work to help mitigate virus impact.
Dr. Geng adds, “As we enter into a winter which may see worsening COVID-19 numbers, we are continuing to work closely to inform the public health response.”