On July 1st, 2020, members of the European Union gradually lifted earlier COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential travel. In response, we designed and deployed “Eva” – a novel reinforcement learning system – across all Greek borders to identify asymptomatic travelers infected with SARS-CoV-2. Eva allocates Greece’s limited testing resources based on demographic characteristics and results from previously tested travelers to (i) limit the influx of new cases and (ii) provide real-time estimates of COVID-19 prevalence to inform border policies. Counterfactual analysis shows that Eva identified 1.85x as many asymptomatic, infected travelers as random surveillance testing, with up to 2-4x as many during peak travel. Moreover, Eva identified approximately 1.25-1.45x as many infected travelers as policies that require similar infrastructure as Eva, but make allocations based on population-level epidemiological metrics (cases/deaths/positivity rates) rather than reinforcement learning. This talk discusses some of the main design decisions behind Eva, the key elements of the reinforcement learning algorithm, and the measured impact of the system in the summer of 2020.
The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences
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