Understanding the Spread of COVID-19 Epidemic: A Spatio-Temporal Point Process View

24 Jun 2021  ·  Shuang Li, Lu Wang, Xinyun Chen, Yixiang Fang, Yan Song ·

Since the first coronavirus case was identified in the U.S. on Jan. 21, more than 1 million people in the U.S. have confirmed cases of COVID-19. This infectious respiratory disease has spread rapidly across more than 3000 counties and 50 states in the U.S. and have exhibited evolutionary clustering and complex triggering patterns. It is essential to understand the complex spacetime intertwined propagation of this disease so that accurate prediction or smart external intervention can be carried out. In this paper, we model the propagation of the COVID-19 as spatio-temporal point processes and propose a generative and intensity-free model to track the spread of the disease. We further adopt a generative adversarial imitation learning framework to learn the model parameters. In comparison with the traditional likelihood-based learning methods, this imitation learning framework does not need to prespecify an intensity function, which alleviates the model-misspecification. Moreover, the adversarial learning procedure bypasses the difficult-to-evaluate integral involved in the likelihood evaluation, which makes the model inference more scalable with the data and variables. We showcase the dynamic learning performance on the COVID-19 confirmed cases in the U.S. and evaluate the social distancing policy based on the learned generative model.

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