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Published: 3 June 2022
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Volume 8; https://doi.org/10.2196/37377

Abstract:
Background: The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is more transmissible than prior variants of concern (VOCs). It has caused the largest outbreaks in the pandemic, with increases in mortality and hospitalizations. Early data on the spread of Omicron were captured in countries with relatively low case counts, so it was unclear how the arrival of Omicron would impact the trajectory of the pandemic in countries already experiencing high levels of community transmission of Delta. Objective: The objective of this study is to quantify and explain the impact of Omicron on pandemic trajectories and how they differ between countries that were or were not in a Delta outbreak at the time Omicron occurred. Methods: We used SARS-CoV-2 surveillance and genetic sequence data to classify countries into 2 groups: those that were in a Delta outbreak (defined by at least 10 novel daily transmissions per 100,000 population) when Omicron was first sequenced in the country and those that were not. We used trend analysis, survival curves, and dynamic panel regression models to compare outbreaks in the 2 groups over the period from November 1, 2021, to February 11, 2022. We summarized the outbreaks in terms of their peak rate of SARS-CoV-2 infections and the duration of time the outbreaks took to reach the peak rate. Results: Countries that were already in an outbreak with predominantly Delta lineages when Omicron arrived took longer to reach their peak rate and saw greater than a twofold increase (2.04) in the average apex of the Omicron outbreak compared to countries that were not yet in an outbreak. Conclusions: These results suggest that high community transmission of Delta at the time of the first detection of Omicron was not protective, but rather preluded larger outbreaks in those countries. Outbreak status may reflect a generally susceptible population, due to overlapping factors, including climate, policy, and individual behavior. In the absence of strong mitigation measures, arrival of a new, more transmissible variant in these countries is therefore more likely to lead to larger outbreaks. Alternately, countries with enhanced surveillance programs and incentives may be more likely to both exist in an outbreak status and detect more cases during an outbreak, resulting in a spurious relationship. Either way, these data argue against herd immunity mitigating future outbreaks with variants that have undergone significant antigenic shifts.
Monika M. Wahi, Natasha Dukach
Published: 13 April 2022
Abstract:
To hold governments accountable to open government data (GD) standards, public dashboards need to be evaluated in terms of how well they meet public needs. To assist with that effort, this chapter presents a framework and rubric by which public dashboards can be evaluated for their level of good faith implementation. It starts by reviewing challenges to governments sharing data in good faith despite increasing open government data (OGD) policies and laws being put in place globally. Next, it presents a use-case in which the authors explain how they examined a public dashboard in their local context that appeared to be following OGD, but not in good faith, and developed an alternative implementation that appeared to increase the level of good faith. The framework and rubric proposed were used to successfully compare and contrast the level of good faith of both implementations, as well as another public dashboard described in the scientific literature, and to generate recommendations to increase the level of good faith. In conclusion, the utility of this framework and rubric for evaluating and comparing good faith in public implementations of dashboards was demonstrated, and researchers are encouraged to build upon this research to quantify the level of good faith in public dashboards as a way of increasing oversight of OGD compliance.
Published: 3 March 2022
Abstract:
BACKGROUND The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is more transmissible than prior variants of concern (VOCs). It has caused the largest outbreaks in the pandemic, with increases in mortality and hospitalizations. Early data on the spread of Omicron were captured in countries with relatively low case counts, so it was unclear how the arrival of Omicron would impact the trajectory of the pandemic in countries already experiencing high levels of community transmission of Delta. OBJECTIVE The objective of this study is to quantify and explain the impact of Omicron on pandemic trajectories and how they differ between countries that were or were not in a Delta outbreak at the time Omicron occurred. METHODS We used SARS-CoV-2 surveillance and genetic sequence data to classify countries into 2 groups: those that were in a Delta outbreak (defined by at least 10 novel daily transmissions per 100,000 population) when Omicron was first sequenced in the country and those that were not. We used trend analysis, survival curves, and dynamic panel regression models to compare outbreaks in the 2 groups over the period from November 1, 2021, to February 11, 2022. We summarized the outbreaks in terms of their peak rate of SARS-CoV-2 infections and the duration of time the outbreaks took to reach the peak rate. RESULTS Countries that were already in an outbreak with predominantly Delta lineages when Omicron arrived took longer to reach their peak rate and saw greater than a twofold increase (2.04) in the average apex of the Omicron outbreak compared to countries that were not yet in an outbreak. CONCLUSIONS These results suggest that high community transmission of Delta at the time of the first detection of Omicron was not protective, but rather preluded larger outbreaks in those countries. Outbreak status may reflect a generally susceptible population, due to overlapping factors, including climate, policy, and individual behavior. In the absence of strong mitigation measures, arrival of a new, more transmissible variant in these countries is therefore more likely to lead to larger outbreaks. Alternately, countries with enhanced surveillance programs and incentives may be more likely to both exist in an outbreak status and detect more cases during an outbreak, resulting in a spurious relationship. Either way, these data argue against herd immunity mitigating future outbreaks with variants that have undergone significant antigenic shifts.
Published: 4 February 2022
by MDPI
Journal: Healthcare
Abstract:
The 2019 global outbreak of COVID-19 has had a huge impact on public health governance systems around the world. In response, numerous scholars have conducted research on public health governance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper provides a bibliometric analysis of 1437 documents retrieved from the Web of Science (WoS) core collection database, with 49,695 references. It analyses the research directions, countries of publications, core journals, leading authors and institutions and important publications. The paper also summarises research trends by analysing the co-occurrence of keywords, frequently cited documents and co-cited references. It summarises the global responses to COVID-19, including public health interventions and a range of supporting policies based on the features and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper provides comprehensive literary support and clear lines of research for future studies on the governance or regulation of public health emergencies.
Published: 31 January 2022
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Volume 8; https://doi.org/10.2196/35763

Abstract:
Background: Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus carry differential risks to public health. The Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant, first identified in Botswana on November 11, 2021, has spread globally faster than any previous variant of concern. Understanding the transmissibility of Omicron is vital in the development of public health policy. Objective: The aim of this study is to compare SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks driven by Omicron to those driven by prior variants of concern in terms of both the speed and magnitude of an outbreak. Methods: We analyzed trends in outbreaks by variant of concern with validated surveillance metrics in several southern African countries. The region offers an ideal setting for a natural experiment given that most outbreaks thus far have been driven primarily by a single variant at a time. With a daily longitudinal data set of new infections, total vaccinations, and cumulative infections in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, we estimated how the emergence of Omicron has altered the trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks. We used the Arellano-Bond method to estimate regression coefficients from a dynamic panel model, in which new infections are a function of infections yesterday and last week. We controlled for vaccinations and prior infections in the population. To test whether Omicron has changed the average trajectory of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, we included an interaction between an indicator variable for the emergence of Omicron and lagged infections. Results: The observed Omicron outbreaks in this study reach the outbreak threshold within 5-10 days after first detection, whereas other variants of concern have taken at least 14 days and up to as many as 35 days. The Omicron outbreaks also reach peak rates of new cases that are roughly 1.5-2 times those of prior variants of concern. Dynamic panel regression estimates confirm Omicron has created a statistically significant shift in viral spread. Conclusions: The transmissibility of Omicron is markedly higher than prior variants of concern. At the population level, the Omicron outbreaks occurred more quickly and with larger magnitude, despite substantial increases in vaccinations and prior infections, which should have otherwise reduced susceptibility to new infections. Unless public health policies are substantially altered, Omicron outbreaks in other countries are likely to occur with little warning.
Published: 22 December 2021
Abstract:
BACKGROUND Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus carry differential risks to public health. The Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant, first identified in Botswana on November 11, 2021, has spread globally faster than any previous variant of concern. Understanding the transmissibility of Omicron is vital in the development of public health policy. OBJECTIVE The aim of this study is to compare SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks driven by Omicron to those driven by prior variants of concern in terms of both the speed and magnitude of an outbreak. METHODS We analyzed trends in outbreaks by variant of concern with validated surveillance metrics in several southern African countries. The region offers an ideal setting for a natural experiment given that most outbreaks thus far have been driven primarily by a single variant at a time. With a daily longitudinal data set of new infections, total vaccinations, and cumulative infections in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, we estimated how the emergence of Omicron has altered the trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks. We used the Arellano-Bond method to estimate regression coefficients from a dynamic panel model, in which new infections are a function of infections yesterday and last week. We controlled for vaccinations and prior infections in the population. To test whether Omicron has changed the average trajectory of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, we included an interaction between an indicator variable for the emergence of Omicron and lagged infections. RESULTS The observed Omicron outbreaks in this study reach the outbreak threshold within 5-10 days after first detection, whereas other variants of concern have taken at least 14 days and up to as many as 35 days. The Omicron outbreaks also reach peak rates of new cases that are roughly 1.5-2 times those of prior variants of concern. Dynamic panel regression estimates confirm Omicron has created a statistically significant shift in viral spread. CONCLUSIONS The transmissibility of Omicron is markedly higher than prior variants of concern. At the population level, the Omicron outbreaks occurred more quickly and with larger magnitude, despite substantial increases in vaccinations and prior infections, which should have otherwise reduced susceptibility to new infections. Unless public health policies are substantially altered, Omicron outbreaks in other countries are likely to occur with little warning.
, J M Sempere, J C Galán, A Moya, C Llorens, C De-Los-Angeles, F Baquero-Artigao, ,
Published: 9 September 2021
Journal: microLife
Abstract:
Epidemics caused by microbial organisms are part of the natural phenomena of increasing biological complexity. The heterogeneity and constant variability of hosts, in terms of age, immunological status, family structure, lifestyle, work activities, social and leisure habits, daily division of time and other demographic characteristics make it extremely difficult to predict the evolution of epidemics. Such prediction is, however, critical for implementing intervention measures in due time and with appropriate intensity. General conclusions should be precluded, given that local parameters dominate the flow of local epidemics. Membrane computing models allows us to reproduce the objects (viruses and hosts) and their interactions (stochastic but also with defined probabilities) with an unprecedented level of detail. Our LOIMOS model helps reproduce the demographics and social aspects of a hypothetical town of 10 320 inhabitants in an average European country where COVID-19 is imported from the outside. The above-mentioned characteristics of hosts and their lifestyle are minutely considered. For the data in the Hospital and the ICU we took advantage of the observations at the Nursery Intensive Care Unit of the Consortium University General Hospital, Valencia, Spain (included as author). The dynamics of the epidemics are reproduced and include the effects on viral transmission of innate and acquired immunity at various ages. The model predicts the consequences of delaying the adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions (between 15 and 45 days after the first reported cases) and the effect of those interventions on infection and mortality rates (reducing transmission by 20, 50 and 80%) in immunological response groups. The lockdown for the elderly population as a single intervention appears to be effective. This modeling exercise exemplifies the application of membrane computing for designing appropriate multilateral interventions in epidemic situations.
M Campos, Jm Sempere, Jc Galán, A Moya, C Llorens, C De-Los-Angeles, F Baquero-Artigao, R Cantón,
Published: 6 July 2021
Abstract:
Epidemics caused by microbial organisms are part of the natural phenomena of increasing biological complexity. The heterogeneity and constant variability of hosts, in terms of age, immunological status, family structure, lifestyle, work activities, social and leisure habits, daily division of time, and other demographic characteristics make it extremely difficult to predict the evolution of epidemics. Such prediction is, however, critical for implementing intervention measures in due time and with appropriate intensity. General conclusions should be precluded, given that local parameters dominate the flow of local epidemics. Membrane computing models allows us to reproduce the objects (viruses, hosts) and their interactions (stochastic but also with defined probabilities) with an unprecedented level of detail. Our LOIMOS model helps reproduce the demographics and social aspects of a hypothetical town of 10,320 inhabitants in an average European country where COVID-19 is imported from the outside. The above-mentioned characteristics of hosts and their lifestyle are minutely considered. The dynamics of the epidemics are reproduced and include the effects on viral transmission of innate and acquired immunity at various ages. The model predicts the consequences of delaying the adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions (between 15 and 45 days after the first reported cases) and the effect of those interventions on infection and mortality rates (reducing transmission by 20%, 50%, and 80%) in immunological response groups. The lockdown for the elderly population as a single intervention appears to be effective. This modelling exercise exemplifies the application of membrane computing for designing appropriate interventions in epidemic situations.
Published: 17 June 2021
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Volume 7; https://doi.org/10.2196/24251

Abstract:
Background COVID-19 transmission rates in South Asia initially were under control when governments implemented health policies aimed at controlling the pandemic such as quarantines, travel bans, and border, business, and school closures. Governments have since relaxed public health restrictions, which resulted in significant outbreaks, shifting the global epicenter of COVID-19 to India. Ongoing systematic public health surveillance of the COVID-19 pandemic is needed to inform disease prevention policy to re-establish control over the pandemic within South Asia. Objective This study aimed to inform public health leaders about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, how South Asia displays differences within and among countries and other global regions, and where immediate action is needed to control the outbreaks. Methods We extracted COVID-19 data spanning 62 days from public health registries and calculated traditional and enhanced surveillance metrics. We use an empirical difference equation to measure the daily number of cases in South Asia as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shifts in variables with a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano–Bond estimator in R. Results Traditional surveillance metrics indicate that South Asian countries have an alarming outbreak, with India leading the region with 310,310 new daily cases in accordance with the 7-day moving average. Enhanced surveillance indicates that while Pakistan and Bangladesh still have a high daily number of new COVID-19 cases (n=4819 and n=3878, respectively), their speed of new infections declined from April 12-25, 2021, from 2.28 to 2.18 and 3.15 to 2.35 daily new infections per 100,000 population, respectively, which suggests that their outbreaks are decreasing and that these countries are headed in the right direction. In contrast, India’s speed of new infections per 100,000 population increased by 52% during the same period from 14.79 to 22.49 new cases per day per 100,000 population, which constitutes an increased outbreak. Conclusions Relaxation of public health restrictions and the spread of novel variants fueled the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Asia. Public health surveillance indicates that shifts in policy and the spread of new variants correlate with a drastic expansion in the pandemic, requiring immediate action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Surveillance is needed to inform leaders whether policies help control the pandemic.
Published: 10 May 2021
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Volume 7; https://doi.org/10.2196/25753

Abstract:
Background The COVID-19 global pandemic has disrupted structures and communities across the globe. Numerous regions of the world have had varying responses in their attempts to contain the spread of the virus. Factors such as public health policies, governance, and sociopolitical climate have led to differential levels of success at controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Ultimately, a more advanced surveillance metric for COVID-19 transmission is necessary to help government systems and national leaders understand which responses have been effective and gauge where outbreaks occur. Objective The goal of this study is to provide advanced COVID-19 surveillance metrics for Canada at the country, province, and territory level that account for shifts in the pandemic including speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence. Enhanced surveillance identifies risks for explosive growth and regions that have controlled outbreaks successfully. Methods Using a longitudinal trend analysis study design, we extracted 62 days of COVID-19 data from Canadian public health registries for 13 provinces and territories. We used an empirical difference equation to measure the daily number of cases in Canada as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. Results We compare the week of February 7-13, 2021, with the week of February 14-20, 2021. Canada, as a whole, had a decrease in speed from 8.4 daily new cases per 100,000 population to 7.5 daily new cases per 100,000 population. The persistence of new cases during the week of February 14-20 reported 7.5 cases that are a result of COVID-19 transmissions 7 days earlier. The two most populous provinces of Ontario and Quebec both experienced decreases in speed from 7.9 and 11.5 daily new cases per 100,000 population for the week of February 7-13 to speeds of 6.9 and 9.3 for the week of February 14-20, respectively. Nunavut experienced a significant increase in speed during this time, from 3.3 daily new cases per 100,000 population to 10.9 daily new cases per 100,000 population. Conclusions Canada excelled at COVID-19 control early on in the pandemic, especially during the first COVID-19 shutdown. The second wave at the end of 2020 resulted in a resurgence of the outbreak, which has since been controlled. Enhanced surveillance identifies outbreaks and where there is the potential for explosive growth, which informs proactive health policy.
Published: 28 April 2021
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Volume 7; https://doi.org/10.2196/25695

Abstract:
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted Europe, resulting in a high caseload and deaths that varied by country. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has breached the borders of Europe. Public health surveillance is necessary to inform policy and guide leaders. Objective: This study aimed to provide advanced surveillance metrics for COVID-19 transmission that account for weekly shifts in the pandemic, speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence, to better understand countries at risk for explosive growth and those that are managing the pandemic effectively. Methods: We performed a longitudinal trend analysis and extracted 62 days of COVID-19 data from public health registries. We used an empirical difference equation to measure the daily number of cases in Europe as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. Results: New COVID-19 cases slightly decreased from 158,741 (week 1, January 4-10, 2021) to 152,064 (week 2, January 11-17, 2021), and cumulative cases increased from 22,507,271 (week 1) to 23,890,761 (week 2), with a weekly increase of 1,383,490 between January 10 and January 17. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom had the largest 7-day moving averages for new cases during week 1. During week 2, the 7-day moving average for France and Spain increased. From week 1 to week 2, the speed decreased (37.72 to 33.02 per 100,000), acceleration decreased (0.39 to –0.16 per 100,000), and jerk increased (–1.30 to 1.37 per 100,000). Conclusions: The United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal, in particular, are at risk for a rapid expansion in COVID-19 transmission. An examination of the European region suggests that there was a decrease in the COVID-19 caseload between January 4 and January 17, 2021. Unfortunately, the rates of jerk, which were negative for Europe at the beginning of the month, reversed course and became positive, despite decreases in speed and acceleration. Finally, the 7-day persistence rate was higher during week 2 than during week 1. These measures indicate that the second wave of the pandemic may be subsiding, but some countries remain at risk for new outbreaks and increased transmission in the absence of rapid policy responses.
Published: 27 April 2021
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Volume 7; https://doi.org/10.2196/25728

Abstract:
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented stress on economies, food systems, and health care resources in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Existing surveillance provides a proxy of the COVID-19 caseload and mortalities; however, these measures make it difficult to identify the dynamics of the pandemic and places where outbreaks are likely to occur. Moreover, existing surveillance techniques have failed to measure the dynamics of the pandemic. Objective: This study aimed to provide additional surveillance metrics for COVID-19 transmission to track changes in the speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence in the transmission of the pandemic more accurately than existing metrics. Methods: Through a longitudinal trend analysis, we extracted COVID-19 data over 45 days from public health registries. We used an empirical difference equation to monitor the daily number of cases in the LAC as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano–Bond estimator in R. COVID-19 transmission rates were tracked for the LAC between September 30 and October 6, 2020, and between October 7 and 13, 2020. Results: The LAC saw a reduction in the speed, acceleration, and jerk for the week of October 13, 2020, compared to the week of October 6, 2020, accompanied by reductions in new cases and the 7-day moving average. For the week of October 6, 2020, Belize reported the highest acceleration and jerk, at 1.7 and 1.8, respectively, which is particularly concerning, given its high mortality rate. The Bahamas also had a high acceleration at 1.5. In total, 11 countries had a positive acceleration during the week of October 6, 2020, whereas only 6 countries had a positive acceleration for the week of October 13, 2020. The TAC displayed an overall positive trend, with a speed of 10.40, acceleration of 0.27, and jerk of –0.31, all of which decreased in the subsequent week to 9.04, –0.81, and –0.03, respectively. Conclusions: Metrics such as new cases, cumulative cases, deaths, and 7-day moving averages provide a static view of the pandemic but fail to identify where and the speed at which SARS-CoV-2 infects new individuals, the rate of acceleration or deceleration of the pandemic, and weekly comparison of the rate of acceleration of the pandemic indicate impending explosive growth or control of the pandemic. Enhanced surveillance will inform policymakers and leaders in the LAC about COVID-19 outbreaks.
, , , Nicholas P Wleklinski, , Hassan Mohammad, , Adesuwa I Akhetuamhen, Cynthia A Brandt, , et al.
Published: 22 April 2021
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Volume 7; https://doi.org/10.2196/26042

Abstract:
Background: Public mass shootings are a significant public health problem that require ongoing systematic surveillance to test and inform policies that combat gun injuries. Although there is widespread agreement that something needs to be done to stop public mass shootings, opinions on exactly which policies that entails vary, such as the prohibition of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. Objective: The aim of this study was to determine if the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (FAWB) (1994-2004) reduced the number of public mass shootings while it was in place. Methods: We extracted public mass shooting surveillance data from the Violence Project that matched our inclusion criteria of 4 or more fatalities in a public space during a single event. We performed regression discontinuity analysis, taking advantage of the imposition of the FAWB, which included a prohibition on large-capacity magazines in addition to assault weapons. We estimated a regression model of the 5-year moving average number of public mass shootings per year for the period of 1966 to 2019 controlling for population growth and homicides in general, introduced regression discontinuities in the intercept and a time trend for years coincident with the federal legislation (ie, 1994-2004), and also allowed for a differential effect of the homicide rate during this period. We introduced a second set of trend and intercept discontinuities for post-FAWB years to capture the effects of termination of the policy. We used the regression results to predict what would have happened from 1995 to 2019 had there been no FAWB and also to project what would have happened from 2005 onward had it remained in place. Results: The FAWB resulted in a significant decrease in public mass shootings, number of gun deaths, and number of gun injuries. We estimate that the FAWB prevented 11 public mass shootings during the decade the ban was in place. A continuation of the FAWB would have prevented 30 public mass shootings that killed 339 people and injured an additional 1139 people. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the utility of public health surveillance on gun violence. Surveillance informs policy on whether a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines reduces public mass shootings. As society searches for effective policies to prevent the next mass shooting, we must consider the overwhelming evidence that bans on assault weapons and/or large-capacity magazines work.
Published: 9 February 2021
Journal of Medical Internet Research, Volume 23; https://doi.org/10.2196/26081

Abstract:
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound and differential impacts on metropolitan areas across the United States and around the world. Within the United States, metropolitan areas that were hit earliest with the pandemic and reacted with scientifically based health policy were able to contain the virus by late spring. For other areas that kept businesses open, the first wave in the United States hit in mid-summer. As the weather turns colder, universities resume classes, and people tire of lockdowns, a second wave is ascending in both metropolitan and rural areas. It becomes more obvious that additional SARS-CoV-2 surveillance is needed at the local level to track recent shifts in the pandemic, rates of increase, and persistence. Objective: The goal of this study is to provide advanced surveillance metrics for COVID-19 transmission that account for speed, acceleration, jerk and persistence, and weekly shifts, to better understand and manage risk in metropolitan areas. Existing surveillance measures coupled with our dynamic metrics of transmission will inform health policy to control the COVID-19 pandemic until, and after, an effective vaccine is developed. Here, we provide values for novel indicators to measure COVID-19 transmission at the metropolitan area level. Methods: Using a longitudinal trend analysis study design, we extracted 260 days of COVID-19 data from public health registries. We used an empirical difference equation to measure the daily number of cases in the 25 largest US metropolitan areas as a function of the prior number of cases and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel data model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. Results: Minneapolis and Chicago have the greatest average number of daily new positive results per standardized 100,000 population (which we refer to as speed). Extreme behavior in Minneapolis showed an increase in speed from 17 to 30 (67%) in 1 week. The jerk and acceleration calculated for these areas also showed extreme behavior. The dynamic panel data model shows that Minneapolis, Chicago, and Detroit have the largest persistence effects, meaning that new cases pertaining to a specific week are statistically attributable to new cases from the prior week. Conclusions: Three of the metropolitan areas with historically early and harsh winters have the highest persistence effects out of the top 25 most populous metropolitan areas in the United States at the beginning of their cold weather season. With these persistence effects, and with indoor activities becoming more popular as the weather gets colder, stringent COVID-19 regulations will be more important than ever to flatten the second wave of the pandemic. As colder weather grips more of the nation, southern metropolitan areas may also see large spikes in the number of cases.
Published: 3 February 2021
Journal of Medical Internet Research, Volume 23; https://doi.org/10.2196/25799

Abstract:
Background SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the global COVID-19 pandemic, has severely impacted Central Asia; in spring 2020, high numbers of cases and deaths were reported in this region. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is currently breaching the borders of Central Asia. Public health surveillance is necessary to inform policy and guide leaders; however, existing surveillance explains past transmissions while obscuring shifts in the pandemic, increases in infection rates, and the persistence of the transmission of COVID-19. Objective The goal of this study is to provide enhanced surveillance metrics for SARS-CoV-2 transmission that account for weekly shifts in the pandemic, including speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence, to better understand the risk of explosive growth in each country and which countries are managing the pandemic successfully. Methods Using a longitudinal trend analysis study design, we extracted 60 days of COVID-19–related data from public health registries. We used an empirical difference equation to measure the daily number of cases in the Central Asia region as a function of the prior number of cases, level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. Results COVID-19 transmission rates were tracked for the weeks of September 30 to October 6 and October 7-13, 2020, in Central Asia. The region averaged 11,730 new cases per day for the first week and 14,514 for the second week. Infection rates increased across the region from 4.74 per 100,000 persons to 5.66. Russia and Turkey had the highest 7-day moving averages in the region, with 9836 and 1469, respectively, for the week of October 6 and 12,501 and 1603, respectively, for the week of October 13. Russia has the fourth highest speed in the region and continues to have positive acceleration, driving the negative trend for the entire region as the largest country by population. Armenia is experiencing explosive growth of COVID-19; its infection rate of 13.73 for the week of October 6 quickly jumped to 25.19, the highest in the region, the following week. The region overall is experiencing increases in its 7-day moving average of new cases, infection, rate, and speed, with continued positive acceleration and no sign of a reversal in sight. Conclusions The rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic requires novel dynamic surveillance metrics in addition to static metrics to effectively analyze the pandemic trajectory and control spread. Policy makers need to know the magnitude of transmission rates, how quickly they are accelerating, and how previous cases are impacting current caseload due to a lag effect. These metrics applied to Central Asia suggest that the region is trending negatively, primarily due to minimal restrictions in Russia.
Published: 1 February 2021
Journal of Medical Internet Research, Volume 23; https://doi.org/10.2196/25454

Abstract:
Background The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound global impact on governments, health care systems, economies, and populations around the world. Within the East Asia and Pacific region, some countries have mitigated the spread of the novel coronavirus effectively and largely avoided severe negative consequences, while others still struggle with containment. As the second wave reaches East Asia and the Pacific, it becomes more evident that additional SARS-CoV-2 surveillance is needed to track recent shifts, rates of increase, and persistence associated with the pandemic. Objective The goal of this study is to provide advanced surveillance metrics for COVID-19 transmission that account for speed, acceleration, jerk, persistence, and weekly shifts, to better understand country risk for explosive growth and those countries who are managing the pandemic successfully. Existing surveillance coupled with our dynamic metrics of transmission will inform health policy to control the COVID-19 pandemic until an effective vaccine is developed. We provide novel indicators to measure disease transmission. Methods Using a longitudinal trend analysis study design, we extracted 330 days of COVID-19 data from public health registries. We used an empirical difference equation to measure the daily number of cases in East Asia and the Pacific as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. Results The standard surveillance metrics for Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar were concerning as they had the largest new caseloads at 4301, 2588, and 1387, respectively. When looking at the acceleration of new COVID-19 infections, we found that French Polynesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines had rates at 3.17, 0.22, and 0.06 per 100,000. These three countries also ranked highest in terms of jerk at 15.45, 0.10, and 0.04, respectively. Conclusions Two of the most populous countries in East Asia and the Pacific, Indonesia and the Philippines, have alarming surveillance metrics. These two countries rank highest in new infections in the region. The highest rates of speed, acceleration, and positive upwards jerk belong to French Polynesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and may result in explosive growth. While all countries in East Asia and the Pacific need to be cautious about reopening their countries since outbreaks are likely to occur in the second wave of COVID-19, the country of greatest concern is the Philippines. Based on standard and enhanced surveillance, the Philippines has not gained control of the COVID-19 epidemic, which is particularly troubling because the country ranks 4th in population in the region. Without extreme and rigid social distancing, quarantines, hygiene, and masking to reverse trends, the Philippines will remain on the global top 5 list of worst COVID-19 outbreaks resulting in high morbidity and mortality. The second wave will only exacerbate existing conditions and increase COVID-19 transmissions.
Published: 15 January 2021
Journal of Medical Internet Research, Volume 23; https://doi.org/10.2196/25830

Abstract:
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions and forced countries to devise public health policies to reduce the pace of transmission. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), falling oil prices, disparities in wealth and public health infrastructure, and large refugee populations have significantly increased the disease burden of COVID-19. In light of these exacerbating factors, public health surveillance is particularly necessary to help leaders understand and implement effective disease control policies to reduce SARS-CoV-2 persistence and transmission. Objective: The goal of this study is to provide advanced surveillance metrics, in combination with traditional surveillance, for COVID-19 transmission that account for weekly shifts in the pandemic speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence to better understand a country’s risk for explosive growth and to better inform those who are managing the pandemic. Existing surveillance coupled with our dynamic metrics of transmission will inform health policy to control the COVID-19 pandemic until an effective vaccine is developed. Methods: Using a longitudinal trend analysis study design, we extracted 30 days of COVID-19 data from public health registries. We used an empirical difference equation to measure the daily number of cases in MENA as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel data model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. Results: The regression Wald statistic was significant (χ25=859.5, P<.001). The Sargan test was not significant, failing to reject the validity of overidentifying restrictions (χ2294=16, P=.99). Countries with the highest cumulative caseload of the novel coronavirus include Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Israel with 530,380, 426,634, 342,202, and 303,109 cases, respectively. Many of the smaller countries in MENA have higher infection rates than those countries with the highest caseloads. Oman has 33.3 new infections per 100,000 population while Bahrain has 12.1, Libya has 14, and Lebanon has 14.6 per 100,000 people. In order of largest to smallest number of cumulative deaths since January 2020, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have 30,375, 10,254, 6120, and 5185, respectively. Israel, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Oman had the highest rates of COVID-19 persistence, which is the number of new infections statistically related to new infections in the prior week. Bahrain had positive speed, acceleration, and jerk, signaling the potential for explosive growth. Conclusions: Static and dynamic public health surveillance metrics provide a more complete picture of pandemic progression across countries in MENA. Static measures capture data at a given point in time such as infection rates and death rates. By including speed, acceleration, jerk, and 7-day persistence, public health officials may design policies with an eye to the future. Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Israel all demonstrated the highest rate of infections, acceleration, jerk, and 7-day persistence, prompting public health leaders to increase prevention efforts.
Published: 3 December 2020
Journal of Medical Internet Research, Volume 22; https://doi.org/10.2196/24286

Abstract:
Background The emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has led to a global pandemic. The United States has been severely affected, accounting for the most COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide. Without a coordinated national public health plan informed by surveillance with actionable metrics, the United States has been ineffective at preventing and mitigating the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. Existing surveillance has incomplete ascertainment and is limited by the use of standard surveillance metrics. Although many COVID-19 data sources track infection rates, informing prevention requires capturing the relevant dynamics of the pandemic. Objective The aim of this study is to develop dynamic metrics for public health surveillance that can inform worldwide COVID-19 prevention efforts. Advanced surveillance techniques are essential to inform public health decision making and to identify where and when corrective action is required to prevent outbreaks. Methods Using a longitudinal trend analysis study design, we extracted COVID-19 data from global public health registries. We used an empirical difference equation to measure daily case numbers for our use case in 50 US states and the District of Colombia as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. Results Examination of the United States and state data demonstrated that most US states are experiencing outbreaks as measured by these new metrics of speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence. Larger US states have high COVID-19 caseloads as a function of population size, density, and deficits in adherence to public health guidelines early in the epidemic, and other states have alarming rates of speed, acceleration, jerk, and 7-day persistence in novel infections. North and South Dakota have had the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission combined with positive acceleration, jerk, and 7-day persistence. Wisconsin and Illinois also have alarming indicators and already lead the nation in daily new COVID-19 infections. As the United States enters its third wave of COVID-19, all 50 states and the District of Colombia have positive rates of speed between 7.58 (Hawaii) and 175.01 (North Dakota), and persistence, ranging from 4.44 (Vermont) to 195.35 (North Dakota) new infections per 100,000 people. Conclusions Standard surveillance techniques such as daily and cumulative infections and deaths are helpful but only provide a static view of what has already occurred in the pandemic and are less helpful in prevention. Public health policy that is informed by dynamic surveillance can shift the country from reacting to COVID-19 transmissions to being proactive and taking corrective action when indicators of speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence remain positive week over week. Implicit within our dynamic surveillance is an early warning system that indicates when there is problematic growth in COVID-19 transmissions as well as signals when growth will become explosive without action. A public health approach that focuses on prevention can prevent major outbreaks in addition to endorsing effective public health policies. Moreover, subnational analyses on the dynamics of the pandemic allow us to zero in on where transmissions are increasing, meaning corrective action can be applied with precision in problematic areas. Dynamic public health surveillance can inform specific geographies where quarantines are necessary while preserving the economy in other US areas.
Published: 19 November 2020
Journal of Medical Internet Research, Volume 22; https://doi.org/10.2196/24248

Abstract:
Background: Since the novel coronavirus emerged in late 2019, the scientific and public health community around the world have sought to better understand, surveil, treat, and prevent the disease, COVID-19. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), many countries responded aggressively and decisively with lockdown measures and border closures. Such actions may have helped prevent large outbreaks throughout much of the region, though there is substantial variation in caseloads and mortality between nations. Additionally, the health system infrastructure remains a concern throughout much of SSA, and the lockdown measures threaten to increase poverty and food insecurity for the subcontinent’s poorest residents. The lack of sufficient testing, asymptomatic infections, and poor reporting practices in many countries limit our understanding of the virus’s impact, creating a need for better and more accurate surveillance metrics that account for underreporting and data contamination.Objective: The goal of this study is to improve infectious disease surveillance by complementing standardized metrics with new and decomposable surveillance metrics of COVID-19 that overcome data limitations and contamination inherent in public health surveillance systems. In addition to prevalence of observed daily and cumulative testing, testing positivity rates, morbidity, and mortality, we derived COVID-19 transmission in terms of speed, acceleration or deceleration, change in acceleration or deceleration (jerk), and 7-day transmission rate persistence, which explains where and how rapidly COVID-19 is transmitting and quantifies shifts in the rate of acceleration or deceleration to inform policies to mitigate and prevent COVID-19 and food insecurity in SSA.Methods: We extracted 60 days of COVID-19 data from public health registries and employed an empirical difference equation to measure daily case numbers in 47 sub-Saharan countries as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R.Results: Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa have the most observed cases of COVID-19, and the Seychelles, Eritrea, Mauritius, Comoros, and Burundi have the fewest. In contrast, the speed, acceleration, jerk, and 7-day persistence indicate rates of COVID-19 transmissions differ from observed cases. In September 2020, Cape Verde, Namibia, Eswatini, and South Africa had the highest speed of COVID-19 transmissions at 13.1, 7.1, 3.6, and 3 infections per 100,0000, respectively; Zimbabwe had an acceleration rate of transmission, while Zambia had the largest rate of deceleration this week compared to last week, referred to as a jerk. Finally, the 7-day persistence rate indicates the number of cases on September 15, 2020, which are a function of new infections from September 8, 2020, decreased in South Africa from 216.7 to 173.2 and Ethiopia from 136.7 to 106.3 per 100,000. The statistical approach was validated based on the regression results; they determined recent changes in the pattern of infection, and during the weeks of September 1-8 and September 9-15, there were substantial country differences in the evolution of the SSA pandemic. This change represents a decrease in the transmission model R value for that week and is consistent with a de-escalation in the pandemic for the sub-Saharan African continent in general.Conclusions: Standard surveillance metrics such as daily observed new COVID-19 cases or deaths are necessary but insufficient to mitigate and prevent COVID-19 transmission. Public health leaders also need to know where COVID-19 transmission rates are accelerating or decelerating, whether those rates increase or decrease over short time frames because the pandemic can quickly escalate, and how many cases today are a function of new infections 7 days ago. Even though SSA is home to some of the poorest countries in the world, development and population size are not necessarily predictive of COVID-19 transmission, meaning higher income countries like the United States can learn from African countries on how best to implement mitigation and prevention efforts.International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID): RR2-10.2196/21955
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