York U prof. develops simulation model to help families understand how to ‘flatten the curve’

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels
Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

COVID-19 continues to spread globally and the phrase flatten the curve has now entered our every-day language. To help people better understand the expression, a simple model was developed to depict the rate of infection. Health officials say that flattening the curve will lead to fewer infections and ease the burden on the health care system.

Ali Asgary
Ali Asgary

As nations and governments use this model to encourage interventions like social and physical distancing, isolation and basic hygiene, York Professor Ali Asgary from the Disaster & Emergency Management (School of Administrative Studies) and the Advanced Disaster, Emergency & Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM) has developed an agent-based simulation to help people understand how the virus spreads within a family unit and how they can work to flatten the curve at home and within their communities.

Test the “Flattening the Curve at Family Level” simulation here.

“I developed this as an interactive educational tool. It uses the same concept of the national models, but it is designed specifically for families. By running different scenarios, it can help people to visualize what flattening the curve looks like with or without interventions,” said Asgary.

If someone in your family unit gets the virus,  Asgary notes that there are two probable outcomes. Either everyone becomes infected in a short period of time, and there is limited capacity at home to look after each other, or with physical distancing, self isolation and extra hygiene measures you can stagger the infection among family members. This would mean that there is always someone to care or help others.

The same logic transfers over to the strain that would affect health care systems if there are no interventions nationally. “Hopefully, it builds some understanding, and serves as a good analogy for how we should all be trying to flatten the national curve,” said Asgary.

The simulation is available to the public, along with other interactive visuals surrounding the pandemic, through ADERSIM. According to Asgary, academics in disaster and emergency management have a role to play by helping to enhance understanding of the situation and disseminating research that can assist with prevention and mitigation measures.

“It’s always good to look into new methods that help to change our perspective. ADERSIM has developed the capacity to create simulations like these for the direct benefit of society. While most simulations and modelling are looking at regional, national, or global levels, this simulation is focusing on the family level which should help people to recognize the role they have to play,” said Asgary.

Watch the video below to see a demonstration on how the simulation works.