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In Extreme Mechanics Letters

Understanding the outbreak dynamics of COVID-19 through the lens of mathematical models is an elusive but significant goal. Within only half a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more than 19 million reported cases across 188 countries with more than 700,000 deaths worldwide. Unlike any other disease in history, COVID-19 has generated an unprecedented volume of data, well documented, continuously updated, and broadly available to the general public. Yet, the precise role of mathematical modeling in providing quantitative insight into the COVID-19 pandemic remains a topic of ongoing debate. Here we discuss the lessons learned from six month of modeling COVID-19. We highlight the early success of classical models for infectious diseases and show why these models fail to predict the current outbreak dynamics of COVID-19. We illustrate how data-driven modeling can integrate classical epidemiology modeling and machine learning to infer critical disease parameters-in real time-from reported case data to make informed predictions and guide political decision making. We critically discuss questions that these models can and cannot answer and showcase controversial decisions around the early outbreak dynamics, outbreak control, and exit strategies. We anticipate that this summary will stimulate discussion within the modeling community and help provide guidelines for robust mathematical models to understand and manage the COVID-19 pandemic. EML webinar speakers, videos, and overviews are updated at

Kuhl Ellen


Bayesian inference, COVID-19, Data-driven modeling, Epidemiology, Extreme diffusion, Extreme growth