UC Health, CA Department of Public Health launch COVID-19 data models

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In collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, UC Health is launching a COVID Modeling Consortium. According to both Dr. Maya Petersen and Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, co-chairs of the consortium, the collaboration will make it much more accessible for UC researchers to respond to the needs of public health officials in the context of COVID-19 and in the long term.

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UC Health and the California Department of Public Health, or CDPH, are launching a data modeling consortium to help policymakers with pandemic-related policies.

There are 147 UC researchers in addition to CDPH modelers participating in the COVID Modeling Consortium in which public health officials can access information such as case rates, hospitalizations, intensive care unit occupancy, economic cost and vaccine distributions to make informed policy decisions, according to a UC press release.

The collaboration will allow UC researchers to respond to the needs of public health officials and tangibly support the UC’s mission to the people of California, said Dr. Maya Petersen, co-chair of the consortium and chair of the division of biostatistics at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, in a press release.

“The pace of the pandemic and the long nature of the pandemic has only made it more relevant for this type of collaboration to take place,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, co-chair of the consortium and professor and chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the UCSF School of Medicine.

Bibbins-Domingo said issues including vaccinations, the COVID-19 variants and the most recent surge in cases require modeled data to understand trends and inform policy decisions moving forward.

All of the interconnected pandemic-related issues that brought about this collaboration made it clear that they needed the “best minds” to come up with the solution, Bibbins-Domingo said.

She added that when dealing with “massive issues” of public health, it helps to have these collaborations in place.

“This approach will be a model for the nation in data analysis and data sharing.” said Dr. Carrie Byington, executive vice president of UC Health and infectious disease expert in an email.

UC Health and CDPH are meeting regularly in forums to discuss forecasts in hospitalizations, deaths and short-term estimates of community COVID-19 transmission, according to the press release.

Meanwhile, researchers are discussing developments in pandemic information, and state officials will provide input to help them better understand the economic impact and health-related patterns of COVID-19, according to the press release.

“UC investigators are also conducting a large-scale data analysis to help target vaccinations to the individuals at highest risk for COVID-19 and associated complications,” the press release stated.

Meetings have been going on for three weeks regarding this collaboration to see what types of models are already out there and to be able to work with policymakers, according to Bibbins-Domingo.

While the data modeling is focused on COVID-19 trends, Bibbins-Domingo said even though the consortium started with COVID-19, it won’t stop there.

“I’m certain that the research in near-real time coming from the consortium will positively impact public policy and save lives.” Byington said in the email.

Contact Shylie Ati at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.