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K-State Today

March 15, 2021

Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab-funded project can predict the regions of COVID-19 outbreaks

Submitted by Layne Wilson

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, or SIIL, is funded by the United States Agency for International Development and hosted at Kansas State University. The lab has a subaward, the Policy Research Consortium, conducted at Rutgers University.

Funded through the Policy Research Consortium, there is a research team at Northwestern University that has an active online COVID-19 data dashboard that indicates quickly where new cases of COVID-19 are accelerating and decelerating in the United States and countries across the world.

The Global SARS-CoV-2 Surveillance Project, or GASSP, collects novel cases from government and research center archives around the world and converts that data into metrics that will provide early signals of COVID-19 transmissions and outbreaks in roughly 190 countries.

One of the primary focus areas of the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab is the pressing issue of food insecurity. With the technology of Global SARS-CoV-2 Surveillance Project, it provides the potential to go to a sub-country level to identify whereat, with precision, there is alarming growth of the pandemic. The project provides standard surveillance metrics to compare countries and global regions and enhanced surveillance that measure the dynamics of the pandemic including speed, acceleration and jerk. Novel surveillance informs policymakers where to shut down specific geographic regions while still preserving the economy, jobs, food and water security and sanitation in other regions of a country.

"With this technology, we can actually track where the pandemic is accelerating and predict regions of impact earlier," said Vara Prasad, university distinguished professor and director of the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab. "By accurately triangulated the COVID-19 surveillance data we can predict the current and future regions of concern, and inform leaders and policymakers in our Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab focus-countries where the outbreak is occurring so they can be prepared before they become overwhelmed."

Lori Post, lead investigator and director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said they are able to spot problem areas across the world and notify policymakers to more precisely impose restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

"Now we can easily identify outbreaks at their beginning," Post said.

Mutations of the virus are going to happen and it will most likely impact Feed the Future focus countries since they have higher population density with congested areas, Post said.

An important aspect of this dashboard is being able to measure dispersion so that it is easy to track where the virus goes, especially once it leaves hub cities and makes its way into the smaller communities where it will affect smallholder farmers.