Kitchener-Waterloo

Waterloo researchers' math model could help guide Ontario's reopening plans

Researchers at the University of Waterloo recently received funding from the province to create a mathematical model that will help in the creation of different strategies to reopen the economy without the resurgence of COVID-19.

Model could also be used to determine how many children should be in child care

Chris Bauch, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Waterloo, says a team of researchers will be combining different data from the province's COVID-19 notifications, local health units and available demographic and epidemiological data to build a model to help guide the province in reopening plans. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A team of researchers at the University of Waterloo have received provincial funding to create a mathematical model that will aid in the creation of possible strategies to reopen the economy without the resurgence of COVID-19.

Premier Doug Ford announced a second round of research projects on July 17 during a stop in Kitchener. The projects are part of a $20 million Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund that aims to find ways to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19.

Lead researcher and professor of applied mathematics Chris Bauch said they will be combining different data from the province's COVID-19 notifications, local health units and available demographic and epidemiological data to build the model.

"[The model] kind of gives you ways of comparing what would happen if you tried different things and that gives you some guidance in which strategies to actually implement," he said.

"Let's suppose you want to reopen or reclose the entire province all at once, versus a region by region approach, you can compare the projections of how many cases you can get under those two different scenarios."

Bauch said he and his team have worked on similar mathematical models in the past with outbreaks like SARS in the early 2000s.

He adds the model could also be used to provide other information, such as caregiver to child ratios in childcare centres, different testing protocols or who would need to be vaccinated once a vaccine becomes available. 

"The problem won't be finding what questions to address, it'll be trying to decide what ones we want to focus on," he said.

"The big paradox with this pandemic is that we don't have any other example to go by. Because there is so little historical precedent, these models can help us understand ... exactly why we are doing this and the benefits of these measures." 

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