A Hierarchical Bayesian Model for Stochastic Spatiotemporal SIR Modeling and Prediction of COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
Most COVID-19 predictive modeling efforts use statistical or mathematical models to predict national- and state-level COVID-19 cases or deaths in the future. These approaches assume parameters such as reproduction time, test positivity rate, hospitalization rate, and social intervention effectiveness (masking, distancing, and mobility) are constant. However, the one certainty with the COVID-19 pandemic is that these parameters change over time, as well as vary across counties and states. In fact, the rate of spread over region, hospitalization rate, hospital length of stay and mortality rate, the proportion of the population that is susceptible, test positivity rate, and social behaviors can all change significantly over time. Thus, the quantification of uncertainty becomes critical in making meaningful and accurate forecasts of the future. Bayesian approaches are a natural way to fully represent this uncertainty in mathematical models and have become particularly popular in physics and engineering models. The explicit integration time varying parameters and uncertainty quantification into a hierarchical Bayesian forecast model differentiates the Mayo COVID-19 model from other forecasting models. By accounting for all sources of uncertainty in both parameter estimation as well as future trends with a Bayesian approach, the Mayo COVID-19 model accurately forecasts future cases and hospitalizations, as well as the degree of uncertainty. This approach has been remarkably accurate and a linchpin in Mayo Clinic's response to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The model accurately predicted timing and extent of the summer and fall surges at Mayo Clinic sites, allowing hospital leadership to manage resources effectively to provide a successful pandemic response. This model has also proven to be very useful to the state of Minnesota to help guide difficult policy decisions.