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Faculty & Research


Pandemic Lock-down, Isolation, and Exit Policies based on Machine Learning Predictions

Journal Article
The widespread lockdowns imposed in many countries at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic elevated the importance of research on pandemic management when medical solutions such as vaccines are unavailable. The authors present a framework that combines a standard epidemiological SEIR (susceptible-exposed-infected-removed) model with an equally standard machine learning classification model for clinical severity risk, defined as an individual's risk needing intensive care unit (ICU) treatment if infected. Using COVID-19-related data and estimates for France as of spring 2020, the authors then simulate isolation and exit policies. the authors' simulations show that policies considering clinical risk predictions could relax isolation restrictions for millions of the lowest-risk population months earlier while consistently abiding by ICU capacity restrictions. Exit policies without risk predictions, meanwhile, would considerably exceed ICU capacity or require the isolation of a substantial portion of population for over a year in order to not overwhelm the medical system. Sensitivity analyses further decompose the impact of various elements of the authors' models on the observed effects. The authors' work indicates that predictive modelling based on machine learning and artificial intelligence could bring significant value to managing pandemics. Such a strategy, however, requires governments to develop policies and invest in infrastructure to operationalize personalized isolation and exit policies based on risk predictions at scale. This includes health data policies to train predictive models and apply them to all residents, as well as policies for targeted resource allocation to maintain strict isolation for high-risk individuals.

Professor of Decision Sciences and Technology Management

Visiting Professor of Decision Sciences