Predicting the Future: How Bay Area data scientists are 'accurately' forecasting US COVID-19 cases

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Two Bay Area data scientists are predicting the future of COVID-19 cases across the nation and their track record is spot on.

"We are very accurate," said Jaideep Ray. "The detail is all in the data."

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Ray and his colleague Cosmin Safta work for Sandia National Laboratories, one of the largest science and engineering labs in the country.

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"It is predicting the future in some way," said Safta.

The two analysts use public data to predict the number of COVID-19 cases in the next seven to 10 days. The data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Johns Hopkins University.

Their predictions stem from a model used to track how AIDS progressed in San Francisco back in the late '80s.

"We started that model 10 years ago, figured out how it worked and how we could simplify it," Ray said.

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The model was also designed to track the plague and the flu, but in a mere week was repurposed to track COVID-19 cases across the Bay Area.

Their analysis not only accurate but calculated fast.

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"Our analysis would take 20-22 hours, but by the time we started doing it regularly we do it in a half an hour," Ray said.

The new model was launched in mid-March and has now expanded to predict COVID cases across the country. But, according to Safta, the Bay Area will always be a priority.

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"The forecasts right now are not really surprising, what you see in the past is the same thing happening in the future," he said.

But, that could change as county restrictions fluctuate.

"A week ago we started restricting movement again, hopefully, we'll see results of that," Safta said.

The Department of Energy is funding Sandia to forecast COVID-19 cases along with many other projects. According to federal records, their contract is valued at $29 billion.

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