1. Physics of Living Systems
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Stochastic social behavior coupled to COVID-19 dynamics leads to waves, plateaus and an endemic state

  1. Alexei V Tkachenko  Is a corresponding author
  2. Sergei Maslov  Is a corresponding author
  3. Tong Wang
  4. Ahmed Elbana
  5. George N Wong
  6. Nigel Goldenfeld
  1. Brookhaven National Laboratory, United States
  2. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, United States
  3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e68341 doi: 10.7554/eLife.68341

Abstract

It is well recognized that population heterogeneity plays an important role in the spread of epidemics. While individual variations in social activity are often assumed to be persistent, i.e. constant in time, here we discuss the consequences of dynamic heterogeneity. By integrating the stochastic dynamics of social activity into traditional epidemiological models we demonstrate the emergence of a new long timescale governing the epidemic, in broad agreement with empirical data. Our Stochastic Social Activity model captures multiple features of real-life epidemics such as COVID-19, including prolonged plateaus and multiple waves, which are transiently suppressed due to the dynamic nature of social activity. The existence of a long timescale due to the interplay between epidemic and social dynamics provides a unifying picture of how a fast-paced epidemic typically will transition to an endemic state.

Data availability

All code needed to reproduce results of our Agent Based Model and fits of the epidemic dynamics in US regions is available on Github https://github.com/maslov-group/COVID-19-waves-and-plateaus

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Alexei V Tkachenko

    Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, United States
    For correspondence
    oleksiyt@bnl.gov
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Sergei Maslov

    Department of Bioengineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, United States
    For correspondence
    maslov@illinois.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-3701-492X
  3. Tong Wang

    Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Ahmed Elbana

    Department of Civil Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. George N Wong

    Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Nigel Goldenfeld

    Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

U.S. Department of Energy (DE-SC0012704)

  • Alexei V Tkachenko

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (University of Illinois System Office,Office of Vice-Chancellor,the Grainger College of Engineering)

  • Sergei Maslov
  • Tong Wang
  • Ahmed Elbana
  • George N Wong
  • Nigel Goldenfeld

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Marc Lipsitch, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: March 12, 2021
  2. Accepted: November 4, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 8, 2021 (version 1)

Copyright

This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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