A new mathematical simulation has concluded that the continued practice of mask wearing and social distancing during ongoing vaccinations could help stem a potential surge in Covid-19 cases, particularly as more infectious variants emerge.

The study was conducted collaboratively by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of North Carolina (UNC), and North Carolina State University (NCSU). This includes Pinar Keskinocak, William W. George Chair and professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), as well as Julie Swann, department head of North Carolina State University’s Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Researchers evaluated how many Covid-19 cases could be avoided in North Carolina if more people get vaccinated and continue to follow mask and physical distancing guidelines. They used an agent-based model originally developed at Georgia Tech for pandemic flu that was later adapted to Covid-19 and modified to test additional scenarios.

“The main takeaway from the paper is that while the increasing vaccine coverage in the U.S. has a positive impact, we are not really there yet. We still need to follow preventive measures such as mask wearing,” said Keskinocak in the article.

Swann concurred, saying, “Current variants are more infectious, and there are still locations with less than 30% of the population vaccinated.”

You can read more about their findings here.

Pinar Keskinocak and Julie Swann

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Shelley Wunder-Smith

H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering