Two Approaches to Predicting the Path of the COVID-19 Pandemic
In this Economic Commentary, Cleveland Fed researchers compare two types of models — the University of Washington’s IHME (“Murray”) forecast, a curve-fitting model, and the Ohio State University model, a structural model — used by epidemiologists to forecast the spread of the coronavirus through the population. Government officials have cited both types of models, and both can be useful in the right context, though only one can be employed for assessing the effectiveness of alternative policies.
- The curve-fitting approach to modeling virus transmission is useful for estimating the number of new infections and deaths that are likely to occur in the upcoming weeks. It cannot predict the causal effect of policies that are not yet in place.
- The structural approach to modeling virus transmission is useful for assessing the effectiveness of specific policies at curbing new infections and deaths. It may be able to predict the outcome of particular policies such as mandating the use of facemasks in public places or answer questions such as whether travel restrictions or bar closings are effective ways to curb the spread of the virus.
- Using a curve-fitting model to compare and assess alternative policies will lead to inappropriate conclusions because it reflects only correlations and not causal relationships.
“While curve-fitting is useful in predicting how many new infections are likely in the near future, a structural model, on the other hand, may be able to predict the outcome of particular policies such as mandating the use of facemasks in public places,” say the researchers.
Read the Economic Commentary.
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.
The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.
Doug Campbell, email@example.com, 513.455.4479