BACKGROUND: The emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has led to a global pandemic. The United States has been severely affected, accounting for the most COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide. Without a coordinated national public health plan informed by surveillance with actionable metrics, the United States has been ineffective at preventing and mitigating the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. Existing surveillance has incomplete ascertainment and is limited by the use of standard surveillance metrics. Although many COVID-19 data sources track infection rates, informing prevention requires capturing the relevant dynamics of the pandemic. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to develop dynamic metrics for public health surveillance that can inform worldwide COVID-19 prevention efforts. Advanced surveillance techniques are essential to inform public health decision making and to identify where and when corrective action is required to prevent outbreaks. METHODS: Using a longitudinal trend analysis study design, we extracted COVID-19 data from global public health registries. We used an empirical difference equation to measure daily case numbers for our use case in 50 US states and the District of Colombia as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. RESULTS: Examination of the United States and state data demonstrated that most US states are experiencing outbreaks as measured by these new metrics of speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence. Larger US states have high COVID-19 caseloads as a function of population size, density, and deficits in adherence to public health guidelines early in the epidemic, and other states have alarming rates of speed, acceleration, jerk, and 7-day persistence in novel infections. North and South Dakota have had the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission combined with positive acceleration, jerk, and 7-day persistence. Wisconsin and Illinois also have alarming indicators and already lead the nation in daily new COVID-19 infections. As the United States enters its third wave of COVID-19, all 50 states and the District of Colombia have positive rates of speed between 7.58 (Hawaii) and 175.01 (North Dakota), and persistence, ranging from 4.44 (Vermont) to 195.35 (North Dakota) new infections per 100,000 people. CONCLUSIONS: Standard surveillance techniques such as daily and cumulative infections and deaths are helpful but only provide a static view of what has already occurred in the pandemic and are less helpful in prevention. Public health policy that is informed by dynamic surveillance can shift the country from reacting to COVID-19 transmissions to being proactive and taking corrective action when indicators of speed, acceleration, jerk, and persistence remain positive week over week. Implicit within our dynamic surveillance is an early warning system that indicates when there is problematic growth in COVID-19 transmissions as well as signals when growth will become explosive without action. A public health approach that focuses on prevention can prevent major outbreaks in addition to endorsing effective public health policies. Moreover, subnational analyses on the dynamics of the pandemic allow us to zero in on where transmissions are increasing, meaning corrective action can be applied with precision in problematic areas. Dynamic public health surveillance can inform specific geographies where quarantines are necessary while preserving the economy in other US areas.
Subject(s)COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/transmission , Public Health Surveillance , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/mortality , Humans , Longitudinal Studies , Pandemics/prevention & control , Pandemics/statistics & numerical data , Public Health , Registries , SARS-CoV-2 , United States/epidemiology
BACKGROUND: Since the novel coronavirus emerged in late 2019, the scientific and public health community around the world have sought to better understand, surveil, treat, and prevent the disease, COVID-19. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), many countries responded aggressively and decisively with lockdown measures and border closures. Such actions may have helped prevent large outbreaks throughout much of the region, though there is substantial variation in caseloads and mortality between nations. Additionally, the health system infrastructure remains a concern throughout much of SSA, and the lockdown measures threaten to increase poverty and food insecurity for the subcontinent's poorest residents. The lack of sufficient testing, asymptomatic infections, and poor reporting practices in many countries limit our understanding of the virus's impact, creating a need for better and more accurate surveillance metrics that account for underreporting and data contamination. OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study is to improve infectious disease surveillance by complementing standardized metrics with new and decomposable surveillance metrics of COVID-19 that overcome data limitations and contamination inherent in public health surveillance systems. In addition to prevalence of observed daily and cumulative testing, testing positivity rates, morbidity, and mortality, we derived COVID-19 transmission in terms of speed, acceleration or deceleration, change in acceleration or deceleration (jerk), and 7-day transmission rate persistence, which explains where and how rapidly COVID-19 is transmitting and quantifies shifts in the rate of acceleration or deceleration to inform policies to mitigate and prevent COVID-19 and food insecurity in SSA. METHODS: We extracted 60 days of COVID-19 data from public health registries and employed an empirical difference equation to measure daily case numbers in 47 sub-Saharan countries as a function of the prior number of cases, the level of testing, and weekly shift variables based on a dynamic panel model that was estimated using the generalized method of moments approach by implementing the Arellano-Bond estimator in R. RESULTS: Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa have the most observed cases of COVID-19, and the Seychelles, Eritrea, Mauritius, Comoros, and Burundi have the fewest. In contrast, the speed, acceleration, jerk, and 7-day persistence indicate rates of COVID-19 transmissions differ from observed cases. In September 2020, Cape Verde, Namibia, Eswatini, and South Africa had the highest speed of COVID-19 transmissions at 13.1, 7.1, 3.6, and 3 infections per 100,0000, respectively; Zimbabwe had an acceleration rate of transmission, while Zambia had the largest rate of deceleration this week compared to last week, referred to as a jerk. Finally, the 7-day persistence rate indicates the number of cases on September 15, 2020, which are a function of new infections from September 8, 2020, decreased in South Africa from 216.7 to 173.2 and Ethiopia from 136.7 to 106.3 per 100,000. The statistical approach was validated based on the regression results; they determined recent changes in the pattern of infection, and during the weeks of September 1-8 and September 9-15, there were substantial country differences in the evolution of the SSA pandemic. This change represents a decrease in the transmission model R value for that week and is consistent with a de-escalation in the pandemic for the sub-Saharan African continent in general. CONCLUSIONS: Standard surveillance metrics such as daily observed new COVID-19 cases or deaths are necessary but insufficient to mitigate and prevent COVID-19 transmission. Public health leaders also need to know where COVID-19 transmission rates are accelerating or decelerating, whether those rates increase or decrease over short time frames because the pandemic can quickly escalate, and how many cases today are a function of new infections 7 days ago. Even though SSA is home to some of the poorest countries in the world, development and population size are not necessarily predictive of COVID-19 transmission, meaning higher income countries like the United States can learn from African countries on how best to implement mitigation and prevention efforts. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): RR2-10.2196/21955.