Lee Worden

The Professionals Cohort (California)

Lee Worden (California)

I’m an applied mathematician who has worked on evolutionary biology and cooperative social dynamics. For the last ten years or so I’ve been doing modeling of infectious disease transmission, most recently as per of Travis Porco’s group in the Francis I. Proctor Foundation at UCSF, and I’ve been working on COVID since March 2020. 

At first I was working on fairly complex models of the disease process, which we used to provide projections of hospital demand to local and state health departments for planning purposes.

While I’m still doing COVID-19 modeling research, I noticed that people were consistently asking for up-to-date estimates of the reproduction number in the Bay Area.

The reproduction number, referred to as R – the number of cases caused by a single case on average – is a summary of how strongly the outbreak is growing or shrinking, that can be used to evaluate how well control strategies are working.

Estimating reproduction numbers can be made as sophisticated and complex as you like, but useful estimates can be done simply, and I realized that I could provide them as a service. I adapted some code I already had (having done similar analyses of measles and Ebola outbreaks) to make local and state R values from each day’s COVID case counts. To make it into a daily tracker website I assembled a team of volunteers from friends and colleagues to get it set up and keep it going, and we have had it running at https://ca-covid-r.info since June 2020. 

I believe this nomination is for the website, so as far as I’m concerned it is the team who is nominated: https://ca-covid-r.info/#Credits

As for myself, I’m continuing to work on COVID modeling focusing on outbreaks in congregate settings that drive racial disparities in the disease’s spread. In particular I’m working with the CalPROTECT project (https://amend.us/calprotect/) on describing and analyzing the horrible, extreme outbreaks that have occurred in the California prison system.

Being a descendant of refugees from the German concentration camps where so many people died from infectious diseases, with the racial disparities in imprisonment in the US, and the pandemic control measures that are necessary – serious reduction in prison population – not being carried out, I am committed to documenting and opposing this abuse of prisoners. 

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