A 5 minute read
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May 22, 2020

After more than eight weeks of implementing stay-at-home advisories and social distancing guidelines, many states are now beginning to lift restrictions and reopen. But with over 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. since the end of January, the question now is this: how can we reopen safely?

Definitive Healthcare recently hosted a brief webinar on Predictions and Considerations for Safe Reopening Timelines in an effort to answer this question. In their 15-minute presentation, data scientists Ryan Sowers and Kathryn Clark discussed a new tool that helps users understand infection rates on a state and county level to predict when these areas might be able to safely reopen.

What is the COVID-19 Reopening Analysis Predictor?

The COVID-19 Reopening Analysis Predictor is an interactive visual tool that expands on many of the original data points and features of our COVID-19 Capacity Predictor. This new model integrates metrics like hospitalization rates, mortality rates, ventilator utilization, total number of confirmed cases, average number of tests administered, and even state stay-at-home parameters to answer the following questions:

  • Are the total number of positive COVID-19 cases trending downward in a given area?
  • What percentage of that population has been tested?
  • What is the effective reproduction rate?

The effective reproduction rate—or the effective reproduction number—represents the average number of people who will contract the virus from a single infected person. Effective reproduction rate values of less than 1.00 indicate that transmissibility is declining, and infection rates are coming under control. This new measure is critical in determining whether states are able to safely reopen.

How can you use the predictor to understand reopening timelines in your state?

The COVID-19 Reopening Analysis Predictor helps gauge risk levels as states begin to ease stay-at-home restrictions and reopen businesses. In order to feel secure about reopening, state governments need to confirm the following:

  • Deaths and new infections are declining
  • The volume of tests administered each day are increasing, and
  • The effective reproduction rate remains low and continues declining

Let’s look at an example. On May 18, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a 4-phase plan to begin reopening the state.

Total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusettsmap of Massachusetts showing total COVID-19 infection volumes

Fig 1 Map is a screenshot from Definitive Healthcare’s COVID-19 Reopening Analysis Predictor. Map shows the total volume of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts per 1000, with turquoise areas representing 1.00 cases per 1000 and dark purple areas representing 20.0 cases per 1000. Using data accurate as of May 18, 2020.

Governor Baker chose to proceed with the phased reopening plan despite the fact that Suffolk, Essex, Plymouth, and Middlesex counties—four of the state’s most-affected areas—still report a combined total of almost 56,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Though this seems to be a considerable number of confirmed infections, preventative measures like the stay-at-home advisory, social distancing guidelines, and enforced use of face coverings help to slow virus transmissibility in ways that won’t be reflected on this map.

The Reopening Analysis Predictor shows that, in fact, the average number of positive tests and the total number of deaths per day have both steadily declined in Massachusetts between May 13 and May 18, 2020.

Massachusetts COVID-19 averages: total tests, total positive tests, total deaths per day

screenshot of the COVID-19 reopening analysis dashboard showing graphs with average number of tests, average number of positive tests, and average number of deaths in Massachusetts per day
Fig 2 Screenshot from Definitive Healthcare’s COVID-19 Reopening Analysis Predictor. Graphs show Massachusetts 7-day averages for number of tests administered, number of positive tests per day, and total number of deaths per day. Using data accurate as of May 18, 2020.

This steady decrease in the number of new infections and deaths means that Massachusetts’ enforced protective measures have, thus far, succeeded in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

A marked decline in the total number of tests administered within the same 7-day period might potentially skew the average number of positive COVID-19 test results. Despite this, effective reproduction rate data seems to support the state’s decision to safely proceed with a phased reopening plan.

COVID-19 effective reproduction rate in Massachusetts

screenshot of COVID-19 reopening analysis dashboard showing effective reproduction rate graph for Massachusetts

Fig 3 Screenshot from Definitive Healthcare’s COVID-19 Reopening Analysis Predictor. Graph shows COVID-19 effective reproduction rate in Massachusetts calculated as of May 18, 2020. “Rt” represents the effective reproduction rate at time “t,” and varies based on factors like social distancing, use of protective masks, and acquired immunity.

According to the above graph, the median effective reproduction rate in Massachusetts has fallen to 0.65 as of May 18—with lower reproduction rate estimates reaching as low as 0.34.

As mentioned above, effective reproduction rate values less than 1.00 demonstrate that virus transmissibility is declining. If the rate continues to decline in this same way, COVID-19 will spread slowly in Massachusetts until it eventually dies out.

It’s important to remember, however, that the effective reproduction rate is influenced not only by the virus’ transmissibility, but also by the total number of susceptible people in a given population. Without protective measures in place to continue slowing the virus’ spread, the number of infected people will increase and so, too, will the effective reproduction rate.

Learn more

Interested in learning more about how COVID-19 will impact reopening timelines in your state? Definitive Healthcare is making our aggregated data available for public consumption. Take a look at our COVID-19 Reopening Analysis Predictor to access up-to-date information about the impact of the virus in your state or county.

For more information about how COVID-19 is affecting other areas of the healthcare industry, take a look at our on-demand webinar replay about The Short-Term Prognosis for Elective Surgeries. In this 15-minute presentation, Todd Bellemare—Definitive Healthcare Vice President of Professional Services—uses medical claims data to assess the current state of the elective surgeries market, and predict which areas are poised to bounce back more quickly. 


Rachel Grande

Rachel Grande is a communications professional and published author. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow, and brings nearly two years of prior experience as ...

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