New dashboard simulates how masks and hand washing can stop the spread of COVID-19

Tinker with this dashboard on GitHub to see how low-tech adjustments can mitigate the impact of coronavirus.

How Stratasys is helping the COVID-19 medical crisis with 3D printing
5:29

Since people around the world are still failing to take necessary precautions against the spread of COVID-19, a Cloudera software engineer created an interactive dashboard that showcases the impact small safety measures can have. 

The COVID-19 Spread Simulator is available to the public for free on GitHub. Created by Anand Patil software engineer, the complex simulator shows how the use of globes, masks, handwash, gowns, and N95 masks affects the containment and spread of the virus. 

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic)

"At this point, people are being amazingly positive and creative about adjusting our lifestyles to the shelter-in-place orders and other restrictions, but my conversations with friends and family about the pandemic itself have taken kind of a fatalistic turn," Patil said. "We're all sort of waiting for something to happen, like a vaccine or other scientific breakthrough, or for the government's plans to advance.

"Some people are just resigned to the thought that a large fraction of the population will inevitably be infected at some point," Patil said.

There are more than 981,221 total confirmed cases, and counting, of coronavirus across the world, according to an online dashboard from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University. Most companies have urged employees to work from home, with states implementing shelter-in-place policies in an attempt to prevent the disease from spreading further. 

However, many people aren't taking this disease seriously, continuing to leave their homes or forgetting to continuously wash their hands. This dashboard, however, displays the severity of this disease and how low-tech life adjustments can help curb illness. 

"Well-known, low-tech interventions like masking, handwashing, and social distancing can substantially enhance the effectiveness of any other countermeasures we as a society deploy, such as vaccines, treatments, testing regimes and contact tracing," Patil said.

How the dashboard works 

The default dashboard is set to an R0 of 3.5. The R0 refers to the average number of infections caused by a single primary infection, as stated on the simulator's home page. According to estimates, the coronavirus typically ranges from 1.5 to 3.5, with higher values making the virus more difficult to fight. 

With a default R0 of 3.5 the simulator shows the number of healthy, recovered, and sick individuals over a 30 day period--without the use of gloves, masks, handwash, gowns, or N95 masks. 

Without the intervention of any low-tech precautionary tools, the 199 healthy blue dots quickly spikes to more than 100 sick green dots. The spike decreases as more people recover over the time period, but few people are indicated to have been completely healthy from the beginning to end of the month. 

Users can alter the percentage of people taking those small precautions. For example, if 50% of the sample wore gloves, only two people in the simulation got sick and recovered. If 50% of people in the simulation wore masks, only one person would've been infected and recovered. A similar result was found if 50% wore N95 masks.

Hand washing didn't prove as effective, but definitely helped. If half of the sample washed their hands, there would be a steady flow of people sick and recovering, with the max concurrently sick population hitting only 50. Around the same results were seen for if 50% wore gowns. 

"I think the next priority is to start adjusting ourselves to thinking about the virus as something
that is difficult, but possible, to beat," Patil said.

"Preventing more [infections] will make the epidemic tend to decrease more quickly," Patil said. "Yes, getting e.g. half the population to wash hands 10 times a day is a huge ask, but on the other hand in the current crisis period we're seeing surprisingly good compliance with much more intrusive interventions, and we've shown that we are willing to spend huge amounts of money. 

"Interventions should also not be thought of as either/or; you don't have to be a mask advocate or a handwashing advocate or a testing and contact tracing advocate. All of the numbers are unsettling, but clearly masks, handwashing, and testing and contact tracing are better than any of them alone. We should be ready to use all the tools at our disposal to bring that R0 down," Patil said.

The simulator shows that any measure taken clearly has a positive overall effect, which is particularly crucial with the ongoing shortage of medical supplies for sick patients. The virus is spreading so quickly that hospitals aren't able to keep up, resulting in ventilator and testing kit shortages

However, even if just 30% of people regularly washed their hands, the simulator found that the spike in sick patients would be significantly slower and lower, allowing hospitals to catch up and preventing others from contracting the virus. 

For more, check out New data map shows when COVID-19 supplies will run out in hospitals on TechRepublic. 

Also see 

dashboard.jpg

Image: GitHub