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Researchers find out how to use stats to prepare for next pandemic

Researchers have found that cultural and demographic factors can help predict how COVID-19 and future outbreaks could progress.

The authors say their techniques potentially could be used to figure out how an infectious disease will move beyond hot spots to regions that are not yet affected. Librarian for STEM research at Vanderbilt University Joshua Borycz says using predictive modeling, a handful of risk factors predicted coronavirus spread in U-S counties, including population size and density, public transportation, and percentage of Black Americans.

As governments struggle to predict and plan for the next disease outbreak, Borycz says the data-driven approach could help save lives. He adds that the U-S scored high on many of the socio-cultural risk factors for an outbreak, including low trust in institutions and high levels of obesity. Nearly 600-thousand people in the U-S have died from the coronavirus.

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The study also found that voting patterns could be used to predict disease spread. Borycz says the data show that in large cities, even when controlled for population density and other differences, areas with more Democratic voters had a higher rate of infection and death from COVID-19.

Borycz also notes the analysis made some surprising predictions about the spread of COVID-19 around the world — showing that, for example, African countries would not be heavily affected by COVID-19. So far, around 133-thousand people have died from the coronavirus on the African continent, far lower than elsewhere around the globe.

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