A decision analytic approach for social distancing policies during early stages of COVID-19 pandemic

Zeynep Ertem, Ozgur M. Araz, Mayteé Cruz-Aponte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic has become a crucial public health problem in the world that disrupted the lives of millions in many countries including the United States. In this study, we present a decision analytic approach which is an efficient tool to assess the effectiveness of early social distancing measures in communities with different population characteristics. First, we empirically estimate the reproduction numbers for two different states. Then, we develop an age-structured compartmental simulation model for the disease spread to demonstrate the variation in the observed outbreak. Finally, we analyze the computational results and show that early trigger social distancing strategies result in smaller death tolls; however, there are relatively larger second waves. Conversely, late trigger social distancing strategies result in higher initial death tolls but relatively smaller second waves. This study shows that decision analytic tools can help policy makers simulate different social distancing scenarios at the early stages of a global outbreak. Policy makers should expect multiple waves of cases as a result of the social distancing policies implemented when there are no vaccines available for mass immunization and appropriate antiviral treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113630
JournalDecision Support Systems
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Compartmental model
  • Decision analysis
  • Reproductive number estimation
  • Social distancing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Information Systems and Management


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