Joint COVID-19 Workgroup Digs Into Data Models, Next Steps

April 29, 2020 Meeting of the Joint Covid-19 Response Legislative Workgroup -2Workgroup briefed by public health experts on data modeling to assist with future planning, social distancing impact analysis, and respiratory virus pathology. 

This week’s meeting included presentations from a panel of public health experts including Dr. Justin Lessler from Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Lei Zhang from the University of Maryland, and Dr. Jeffrey Shaman from Columbia University.

Dr. Lessler shared analysis on coronavirus scenario modeling for Maryland that the Hopkins’ Infectious Disease Dynamics COVID-19 working group has been working on. These models are used for planning rather than forecasting purposes and rest on different sets of assumptions (e.g. timelines, testing, self quarantining, tracing, etc.). They set out various paths forward the state could take and what sort of results they would render.

Dr. Lei shared an interactive COVID-19 impact analysis for situational awareness and decision support. Using an extensive database of local and national transportation and mobility data the platform can be used to measure the impacts of social distancing, quarantining, and other measures. It can analyze and share anonymized data of when and where people are going to help pinpoint individual actions, outbreak hot spots, other health, and economic connections.

Dr. Shaman discussed field projects he did on the prevalence of respiratory viruses in the community — how they get around and why they persist as well as they do — to help inform work on this coronavirus pandemic. He noted a couple of challenges this virus presents: (1) it’s a novel pathogen to which the majority of the world has no immunity; (2) the majority of infections are mild and asymptomatic meaning very difficult to track and control; and (3) a substantial amount of people clinical manifestation that results in critical care.  Shaman stated that the virus will burn through as many people as it can so increasing testing capacity and contact tracing while continuing social distancing/quarantining will be key to keeping a stranglehold on it.

Following the presentations, members discussed priority COVID-19 related issues their communities need to have addressed. Providing unemployment and small business assistance; improving broadband access — closing the digital divide and laying the last mile; connecting with vulnerable and minority communities; preventing education setbacks were some of the issues raised.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, raised following up on Harford County Executive Barry Glassman’s remarks at the prior briefing that small counties have to go through the State to receive federal CARES funding while larger counties McIntosh wants to ensure that every county gets the funding that they need and do not fall behind.

The Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Work Group is co-chaired by President Ferguson and Speaker Jones and includes 22 House and Senate members. Their charge is to monitor the effects COVID-19 in Maryland and to support the Governor and Department of Health and advise the General Assembly on any actions they should be taking.

The meeting was streamed live and a recording may be found on YouTube.

Prior Coverage from Conduit Street:

County Executives Brief COVID-19 Legislative Workgroup

Joint COVID-19 Legislative Work Group Holds First Live-Streamed Meeting