A Conversation about COVID-19 with Economists, Sociologists, Statisticians, and Operations Researchers

David Banks organized a conversation with a few researchers about the COVID-19 pandemic that turned into a publication in the Harvard Data Science Review [Link]. I was one of the experts included in this conversation. A description of the article and a link to the full article is below.

A Conversation about COVID-19 with Economists, Sociologists, Statisticians, and Operations Researchers by David Banks, Laura Albert, Jonathan Caulkins, Sylvia Frühwirth-Schnatter, Fiona Greig, Adrian Raftery, and Duncan Thomas

Summary. The participants in this discussion are leaders in areas of economics, sociology, statistics, and operations management that are relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. They felt that the economic toll of the pandemic would be large, adversely affecting the U.S. and the world for years to come. Even if an effective vaccine is found quickly, some changes (e.g., telemedicine, increased working from home) are likely to be permanent. Some portions of commerce can be safely restarted now, with appropriate social distancing protocols, but other portions (concerts, theaters) cannot. Social distancing is an effective tool for reducing the reproduction number of the disease, and small changes in that figure have nonlinear impacts on the scale of the problem.  It is important to get better estimates for epidemiological modeling, and for this we need disease and antibody testing on representative samples of the population. We also need to re-engineer work and other activities in ways that allow the economy to begin to slide back towards normal operation without increasing the reproduction number.  As restrictions loosen, there will patchwork outbreaks throughout 2020.  Universities will face challenges to their traditional ways of doing things, but will also have opportunities to improve what they do.

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