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USF Center for Analytics and Creativity Research Predicts COVID-19 Peaks in Florida, Hillsborough County

By Keith Morelli

TAMPA (April 10, 2020) -- Recently released research by the Muma College of Business Center for Analytics and Creativity at the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital has predicted Florida should reach its peak of COVID-19 cases around April 21. Further, Hillsborough County is likely to hit its peak in two weeks and its current low numbers have been attributed to early implementation of precautions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

“It is heartening to see how many organizations in our community, including USF, Tampa General Hospital and others are actively collaborating to bring different capabilities very quickly together to solve ongoing problems that affect our state,” said Balaji Padmanabhan, director of the Center for Analytics and Creativity. “The fact that many of these activities are happening ‘bottom up’ does contribute to the speed of response.

“Great things can happen when people at the frontlines directly collaborate with each other and with researchers to solve problems,” he said. “We remain a resource to businesses and policy makers in our region and will continue to explore ways to help them in any way we can.”

The state and Hillsborough County are faring better than expected and better than many parts of the nation, Padmanabhan said. He pointed to the proactive measures implemented by the county and the city of Tampa relatively early on in the crisis. Hillsborough County is tracking well below the state and many parts of the nation, according to current data.

“Florida and Hillsborough County are currently doing much better than many feared they might,” he said on a blog post on his LinkedIn page. “A combination of high testing, by our colleagues at TGH and many other health care providers, and our citizens taking stay-at-home orders seriously along with social-distancing precautions, are all noteworthy of significant praise here. While we are still a ways off from what might be called ‘recovery,’ we should take time to celebrate some of these measures and actions that are starting to show results.”

The first significant social distancing interventions – restaurants closing early and a decision not to return to public school after spring break – in Hillsborough County took place early and that appears to be the reason for the lower numbers of reported COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 Peak Graph

Padmanabhan’s collaborator at TGH, Jason Wilson, noted in his blog entry that some of the data indicates things may soon begin to look even better. Wilson said, “[It] will be interesting to see if an even sharper bend in the slope is observed starting around April 11 – two weeks after the county’s Safer-at-Home mandate.” Florida’s numbers are still being driven by the high counts of cases in South Florida, including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties, Wilson said, but a statewide stay-at-home policy was implemented on April 3 and that, according to predictive models, puts the peak for Florida around April 21.

Research shows that Florida’s rising number of cases aren’t close to the ones for New York and New Jersey, “but they definitely don't look as good as California or Washington,” Padmanabhan said.

“The X-factor is also how much testing is being done, so we know if those numbers are reasonable,” he said. “If testing ramps up suddenly, and more who should be tested are being tested, those curves could take a turn in the wrong direction.

“Aggressive testing (to know exactly where these states are) coupled with aggressive, stay-at-home and social distancing have been very good strategies in all these places – these have clearly contributed to flattening the curve.”