Forecasting Multi-Wave Epidemics Through Bayesian Inference


We present a simple, near-real-time Bayesian method to infer and forecast a multiwave outbreak, and demonstrate it on the COVID-19 pandemic. The approach uses timely epidemiological data that has been widely available for COVID-19. It provides short-term forecasts of the outbreak’s evolution, which can then be used for medical resource planning. The method postulates one- and multiwave infection models, which are convolved with the incubation-period distribution to yield competing disease models. The disease models’ parameters are estimated via Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling and information-theoretic criteria are used to select between them for use in forecasting. The method is demonstrated on two- and three-wave COVID-19 outbreaks in California, New Mexico and Florida, as observed during Summer-Winter 2020. We find that the method is robust to noise, provides useful forecasts (along with uncertainty bounds) and that it reliably detected when the initial single-wave COVID-19 outbreaks transformed into successive surges as containment efforts in these states failed by the end of Spring 2020.

Archives of Computational Methods in Engineering