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Predicting Infectiousness for Proactive Contact Tracing

Yoshua Bengio · Prateek Gupta · Tegan Maharaj · Nasim Rahaman · Martin Weiss · Tristan Deleu · Eilif B Muller · Meng Qu · victor schmidt · Pierre-luc St-charles · hannah alsdurf · Olexa Bilaniuk · david buckeridge · Gaétan Marceau Caron · pierre carrier · Joumana Ghosn · satya gagne · Chris J Pal · Irina Rish · Bernhard Schoelkopf · abhinav sharma · Jian Tang · Andrew Williams

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The COVID-19 pandemic has spread rapidly worldwide, overwhelming manual contact tracing in many countries and resulting in widespread lockdowns for emergency containment. Large-scale digital contact tracing (DCT) has emerged as a potential solution to resume economic and social activity while minimizing spread of the virus. Various DCT methods have been proposed, each making trade-offs be-tween privacy, mobility restrictions, and public health. The most common approach, binary contact tracing (BCT), models infection as a binary event, informed only by an individual’s test results, with corresponding binary recommendations that either all or none of the individual’s contacts quarantine. BCT ignores the inherent uncertainty in contacts and the infection process, which could be used to tailor messaging to high-risk individuals, and prompt proactive testing or earlier warnings. It also does not make use of observations such as symptoms or pre-existing medical conditions, which could be used to make more accurate infectiousness predictions. In this paper, we use a recently-proposed COVID-19 epidemiological simulator to develop and test methods that can be deployed to a smartphone to locally and proactively predict an individual’s infectiousness (risk of infecting others) based on their contact history and other information, while respecting strong privacy constraints. Predictions are used to provide personalized recommendations to the individual via an app, as well as to send anonymized messages to the individual’s contacts, who use this information to better predict their own infectiousness, an approach we call proactive contact tracing (PCT). Similarly to other works, we find that compared to no tracing, all DCT methods tested are able to reduce spread of the disease and thus save lives, even at low adoption rates, strongly supporting a role for DCT methods in managing the pandemic. Further, we find a deep-learning based PCT method which improves over BCT for equivalent average mobility, suggesting PCT could help in safe re-opening and second-wave prevention.

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