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It’s an unfortunate but ever-present truth: The realities of COVID-19 are still far from over. In fact, cases are actually on the rise again—concurrent with easing U.S. restrictions, quarantine fatigue, waning vaccine efficacy and the increasing (yet misguided) belief that the pandemic is behind us. Now, with recent reports showcasing rising infections and hospitalizations in Europe, as well as new media coverage highlighting renewed lockdowns in China, it’s clear that we, as a society, must face a stark reality about the fight against COVID-19: We’re not out of the woods just yet.
If we hope to adapt to this new normal—one where COVID cases fluctuate regularly—we must be willing to change our perception for how we get this virus in check. Gone are the days of the “COVID-free” future. On the contrary, it’s no longer a question of how we defeat COVID-19, but rather how we learn to live with it. This starts with simple wisdom and data.
Leveraging data science and technology, I believe that we, as a society, must reimagine how we consolidate, analyze, and distribute data surrounding COVID-19 infections—providing more in-depth guidance for those struggling to understand their exposure at a local, regional, and national scale. Thankfully, this type of infrastructure already exists and is easy to deploy. It merely requires that testing companies and population health managers work together to usher in a new era of managing this virus by using predictive modeling to stay ahead of it. In doing so, we could live in a world where COVID data allows us to both predict and adapt to outbreaks much like a weather forecast for a snowstorm or hurricane.