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Math Bio Seminar: Beyond six feet: The collective behavior of social distancing

Author: Lona | Image: Lona

Speaker: Zhijun Wu, Iowa State University (Mathematics)

Abstract: Social distancing has been a vital tool to fight epidemics and save lives. It may induce profound negative social or economic impacts as well. How to optimize social distancing has been a challenging issue yet to be resolved. This work investigates social distancing with a focus on how every individual reacts to an epidemic, what role he/she plays in social distancing, and in particular, how his/her decision contributes to the action of the population and vice versa. Social distancing is thus modeled as a population game, where every individual makes decision on how to participate in a set of social activities so that he/she can minimize his/her social contacts at a least possible social or economic cost. An optimal distancing strategy can then be obtained for everyone when the game reaches an equilibrium. The model applies to realistically restrained as well as ideally mixed populations as demonstrated by the simulation results. It is aimed to reveal the conflicting yet cooperative nature of social distancing, and to shed lights on a self-organizing, bottom-up perspective of social distancing.