Semi-Mechanistic Bayesian Modeling of COVID-19 with Renewal Processes

by   Samir Bhatt, et al.

We propose a general Bayesian approach to modeling epidemics such as COVID-19. The approach grew out of specific analyses conducted during the pandemic, in particular an analysis concerning the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in reducing COVID-19 transmission in 11 European countries. The model parameterizes the time varying reproduction number R_t through a regression framework in which covariates can e.g be governmental interventions or changes in mobility patterns. This allows a joint fit across regions and partial pooling to share strength. This innovation was critical to our timely estimates of the impact of lockdown and other NPIs in the European epidemics, whose validity was borne out by the subsequent course of the epidemic. Our framework provides a fully generative model for latent infections and observations deriving from them, including deaths, cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and seroprevalence surveys. One issue surrounding our model's use during the COVID-19 pandemic is the confounded nature of NPIs and mobility. We use our framework to explore this issue. We have open sourced an R package epidemia implementing our approach in Stan. Versions of the model are used by New York State, Tennessee and Scotland to estimate the current situation and make policy decisions.


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