“What we do is we train the full history of the pandemic to date into the model,” Bryan Lewis, a research associate professor at the institute, said.
Lewis says the pandemic is keeping experts on their toes: “This pandemic has certainly shown us that it continues to sort of amaze us in terms of as soon as you think it’s going to do one thing, it switches gears and does something different,” he said.
Lewis is a part of a team that helps create weekly COVID-19 models for the Virginia Department of Health. The most recent model shows there could be 98,000 cases the first week of February 2021.
“Viruses thrive in these cold, low humidity environments, especially that require people to sort of be inside a little bit more and so that’s part of it,” Lewis said. “I think part of it’s also just the behaviors we have these holidays, where people mix around.”
He says these are just models, that show what could happen if measures aren’t taken to prevent the spread of the virus.
“One analogy people like to use is like you’re driving a car and you see a sharp turn coming home, you slow down and steer. So part of this model is supposed to be showing you that the road is going to get steep, but something bad could happen if you don’t react to it and so that’s that’s the point of these models,” Lewis said.
The models are now starting to include the vaccine, but Lewis says the shots won’t have too much of an effect until well into the future: “We still have a ways to go before the vaccine is going to pull us out of this, and you can see that subtle behavioral changes now can have much more of an impact than the vaccine will have until we get much, much, further out in the future,” he explained.