Accounting For The Human Reaction


Behavioral changes like social distancing are an often-missing factor in disease outbreak models, a Texas A&M expert says.

Depending on what model you look at, the new coronavirus could infect between 160 million and 214 million people in the United States, and kill anywhere from 200,000 to 1.7 million people. The estimates show a potentially vast toll – but don’t take into account the behavioral changes already underway to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Those projections were presented to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month as four possible scenarios, the New York Times reported. These kinds of worst-case-scenario projections assume that no behavioral changes will be made to slow the rate of infection, a Texas A&M University expert said, showing the importance of modeling that factors in human behavior.

“In the fog of war, we don’t really dwell on behavior changes, and we aim to make predictions based on biological factors and how our communities interlink before the disease was here,” said Ceyhun Eksin, an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “With recent measures, we’re changing how our community is interacting drastically. These measures are going to have an effect.”

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