COVID-19 Math Modeling for Cornell’s Fall Semester

An Alumni Discussion with Assoc. Professor Peter Frazier
Thursday November 12, 2020, 6:30PM MST

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As Cornell University confronted daunting reactivation challenges this summer, it turned to its own world-renowned faculty, staff, students, and the Ithaca community.

President Martha Pollack and the Administration led an all-hands, data-driven, scientific approach to preserve the highly-valued Cornell residential education and interactions with faculty, and realized it would require “freedom with mutual community responsibility,” massive and aggressive testing, tracing, and isolation solutions, new instructional approaches, and on-going community vigilance. But the administration needed one more critical ingredient: confidence the Fall 2020 reactivation plan could outperform alternative scenarios.

The University called upon Cornell’s School of Operations Research and Information Engineering and the COVID-19 Modeling Team, led by Associate Professor Peter Frazier. The outcome? “First, mathematical modeling played a key role in the decision to reopen: models showed that reopening with aggressive mandatory testing is less risky than virtual instruction with a weak testing mandate across a wide range of parameters. Second, it helped design the testing interventions that are a cornerstone of Cornell’s COVID-19 control strategy. This includes [the University’s] asymptomatic screening program that is nearly unparalleled in its breadth and frequency. It also includes [the] unique-to-Cornell adaptive testing program that blends traditional contact tracing with asymptomatic screening to race ahead and encircle the virus.”

The Cornell Club of Arizona invites you to hear Professor Frazier explain the practical challenges, assumptions, model results, and on-going refinements driving one of the biggest decisions in recent history at Cornell. He will help us understand how even “imperfect simulations of reality” can engender confidence for decision-makers in challenging times, based on the team’s paper COVID-19 Mathematical Modeling for Cornell’s Fall Semester published June 15, 2020.

Related Links:
Cornell Daily Sun – Q&A on the Model Reopening Campus
Cornell Chronicle – Robots, know-how drive massive testing effort
Cornell Faculty Townhall on Reactivation Plans

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