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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Expert Alert: The Math Behind Social Distancing | Mathematics and Statistics - UMM News

A UMD faculty member's expertise illuminates the impact of social distancing during a pandemic by Richard Buckalew, Assistant Professor of Mathematics. 

Duluth's Portman Park during COVID-19
1. What does the math tell you about the impact of social distancing?
The math tells us that, given all the complex ways that people can interact and spread the pathogen, reducing this by even relatively small amounts can have a huge impact on the felt reality of an epidemic. 

In the real world, that translates to two things: We need fewer interactions with others, and when interaction must happen, we need safer ones – i.e., social distancing. And we need people who are contagious (‘testing’) or who might be (‘tracing’) to self-isolate and take more precautions than they otherwise would. Small changes in those two factors can have huge effects on the trajectory of the model...

3. What else would you like people to know?
 What I’d really like is for people to get to know their friendly neighborhood epidemiologist. Or mathematician, or whomever. People get into epidemiology, or epidemiological modeling, because they want to make the world a better place. When people have questions, I want them to feel empowered to ask someone who would know – and to know the difference, because unfortunately there are plenty of people who pretend to be experts when they aren’t.

Source: UMM News