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Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

Confronting COVID-19

COVID-19 preparedness an essential part of Queen’s planning

Over the last month, Queen’s has been educating students arriving in Kingston about the role they need to play in helping keep the community safe from the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, Principal Patrick Deane has directed the university to create a new Incident Command Structure to help manage possible or confirmed cases of the virus within the university community to further support efforts to protect the health and safety of all faculty, staff, and students – and the Kingston community at large.

“As this fall term gets underway, ensuring we are prepared to manage any cases of COVID-19 within our community is critical,” says Principal Deane. “I have asked Provost Mark Green to lead this effort at Queen’s. We know we must remain vigilant and have the right structure in place to help us act quickly.”

Under the Incident Command Structure, members of the Incident Command Team Executive now meet three times a week to review information on the status of any possible or known cases of COVID-19, and address any required changes to campus operations and communications. Along with the Provost, the meeting includes Dr. David Walker, Special Advisor to the Principal on COVID-19, as well as the Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration), Vice-Principal (Research), Vice-Principal (University Relations), and others.  

In the event of an outbreak, the Provost will take on the role of University Incident Commander and will activate the larger Incident Command Team, which will operate in accordance with the university’s Emergency Management Plan. If there is an impacted area or unit on campus, the relevant Dean or portfolio lead will be included in the Incident Command Team.

“The Incident Command Team has completed several scenario planning exercises with local public health officials to ensure we are prepared to make the decisions required to protect the health and safety of our community,” says Provost Green. “Gaps identified during these scenario exercises are being addressed. Of significance is the need for clear and fast communications.”

Public health support  

In the event of a confirmed case within the Queen’s community, public health will alert the university when warranted. If a student or staff member in residence tests positive, public health will immediately contact the university, as there are special protocols in place. For all other members of the Queen’s community, public health will only notify the university if they have the permission of the faculty, staff, or student involved, or if it is essential that the university be contacted for purposes of contract tracing. All guidelines make it clear that anyone who becomes aware of a confirmed case on campus should immediately inform Dan Langham (613-533-6000 x74980; dan.langham@queensu.ca) or call the Queen’s Emergency Report Centre (613-533-6111). Langham will then contact public health for confirmation and will also alert the Incident Command Team.

It is important to note there are legal restrictions to sharing personal health information under the Personal Health Information Privacy Act (PHIPA). If a member of the Queen’s community is notified of a confirmed or potential positive case, including a notice from someone who is self-reporting, any identifying personal information must be removed in emails – including the email address, name, signature block, and any other identifying information about the original sender. 

Communications

When Queen’s receives detailed information about a confirmed case of COVID-19, the Incident Command Team will determine the appropriate communications in consultation with public health and all communications must ultimately be approved by the University Incident Commander.

To limit the spread of unconfirmed or incomplete information, and to protect personal health information, units across campus should refrain from sending communications about cases of COVID-19.

More details about the university’s pandemic planning are available on the COVID-19 website which is updated daily.

Promoting active transportation during the pandemic

A Queen’s student and professor are helping Kingston imagine new possibilities for its streets.

Photograph of signs for Kingston Quiet Streets Initiative
The Kingston Quiet Streets Initiative diverts through traffic from residential streets to make room for walking, cycling, and other forms of active transportation.

Queen’s students and faculty often look for ways to make an impact on the Kingston community that they learn, teach, and research in. Recently, a professor and graduate student have been involved in Kingston Quiet Streets, a project led by the Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation (KCAT) that is making active transportation easier on several residential streets near campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Kingston Quiet Streets Initiative has been a great way to make a positive contribution to Kingston. It has taken months of intensive planning, but now we can see local residents taking advantage of the reduced number of cars on the quiet streets by getting out and walking, cycling, or rolling at an appropriate physical distance,” says Stephan Kukkonen, the second-year master's student in the School of Urban and Regional Planning who has been assisting with the project. “As I hope to pursue city planning after my time at Queen’s, Quiet Streets has also been a great way to get practical experience.”

The aim of Quiet Streets is to enable people using active transportation to make use of the entire roadway, not just sidewalks or the side of the street. With strategically placed signs and barriers at 44 intersections, Quiet Streets diverts motorized through traffic from select streets, asking drivers to reserve these roads for walking, cycling, and other forms of active transportation. The increased amount of available space on the streets makes it easier for people to get active outside while maintaining physical distance. All streets involved in the project remain open to the local traffic.

Kukkonen got involved in Quiet Streets through his position as a project assistant for Patricia Collins, associate professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning. Dr. Collins and Kukkonen have worked with KCAT on all stages of the project, from identifying locations, to securing approval from the City of Kingston and setting up the signs and barriers.

“Without the help of Stephan and Dr. Collins, Quiet Streets would not have come about as quickly as it has. We hope that this pilot initiative shows the value of having streets more accessible to active transportation, and that we can continue, expand, and improve the program in the future,” says Bruce Bursey, a volunteer for KCAT. “During the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for people to have safe ways to be active outdoors.”

Early in the planning process, Kukkonen and Dr. Collins measured traffic patterns on potential streets to determine suitability. Once the pilot has been in place for several weeks, they will observe patterns again to measure the effectiveness of the program. They are also surveying both users of the Quiet Streets and residents who live on them to gauge the community’s attitudes on the pilot.

The signs and barriers went up on several Kingston streets in late August, and the pilot will run until mid-November.

Learn more about the Kingston Quiet Streets Pilot Initiative on the KCAT website.

While most university operations will still be conducted remotely throughout the fall semester, Queen’s has programs in place to promote active transportation to campus for all students, faculty, and staff. Learn more on the Sustainable Queen’s website.

Making sense of COVID-19 tests and terminology

Drawing of a medical professional administering a COVID-19 test

During the COVID-19 pandemic, words and phrases that have typically been limited to epidemiologists and public health professionals have entered the public sphere. Although we’ve rapidly accepted epidemiology-based news, the public hasn’t been given the chance to fully absorb what all these terms really mean.

As with all disease tests, a false positive result on a COVID-19 test can cause undue stress on individuals as they try to navigate their diagnosis, take days off work and isolate from family. One high-profile example was Ohio Governor Mike DeWine whose false positive result led him to cancel a meeting with President Donald Trump.

False negative test results are even more dangerous, as people may think it is safe and appropriate for them to engage in social activities. Of course, factors such as the type of test, whether the individual had symptoms before being tested and the timing of the test can also impact how well the test predicts whether someone is infected.

Sensitivity and specificity are two extremely important scientific concepts for understanding the results of COVID-19 tests.

In the epidemiological context, sensitivity is the proportion of true positives that are correctly identified. If 100 people have a disease, and the test identifies 90 of these people as having the disease, the sensitivity of the test is 90 per cent.

A lab technician handles a specimen that has tested positive for COVID-19
A lab technician handles a specimen that has tested positive for COVID-19. (Unsplash/Prasesh Shiwakoti)

Specificity is the ability of a test to correctly identify those without the disease. If 100 people don’t have the disease, and the test correctly identifies 90 people as disease-free, the test has a specificity of 90 per cent.

This simple table helps outline how sensitivity and specificity are calculated when the prevalence — the percentage of the population that actually has the disease — is 25 per cent (totals in bold):

Table showing number of positive and negative tests in rows, and number or disease cases (total 25,000) and disease-free cases (total 75,000) in columns, along with the sensitivity of 80 per cent and the specificity of 90 per cent.
Sensitivity and specificity at 25 per cent disease prevalence. (Priyanka Gogna), Author provided

 

A test sensitivity of 80 per cent can seem great for a newly released test (like for the made-up case numbers I reported above).

Predictive value

But these numbers don’t convey the whole message. The usefulness of a test in a population is not determined by its sensitivity and specificity. When we use sensitivity and specificity, we are figuring out how well a test works when we already know which people do, and don’t, have the disease.

But the true value of a test in a real-world setting comes from its ability to correctly predict who is infected and who is not. This makes sense because in a real-world setting, we don’t know who truly has the disease — we rely on the test itself to tell us. We use the positive predictive value and negative predictive value of a test to summarize that test’s predictive ability.

A health-care worker prepares a swab at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic. (Unsplash/Mufid Majnun)

To drive the point home, think about this: in a population in which no one has the disease, even a test that is terrible at detecting anyone with the disease will appear to work great. It will “correctly” identify most people as not having the disease. This has more to do with how many people have the disease in a population (prevalence) rather than how well the test works.

Using the same numbers as above, we can estimate the positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV), but this time we focus on the row totals (in bold).

The PPV is calculated as the number of true positives divided by the total number of people identified as positive by the test.

Table showing number of positive and negative tests in rows, and columns with numbers of disease cases, disease-free cases, totals and PPV of 73 per cent and NPV of 93 per cent.
Positive and negative predictive value at 25 per cent disease prevalence. (Priyanka Gogna), Author provided

 

The PPV is interpreted as the probability that someone that has tested positive actually has the disease. The NPV is the probability that someone that tested negative does not have the disease. Although sensitivity and specificity do not change as the proportion of diseased individuals changes in a population, the PPV and NPV are heavily dependent on the prevalence.

Let’s see what happens when we redraw our disease table when the population prevalence sits at one per cent instead of 25 per cent (much closer to the true prevalence of COVID-19 in Canada).

Table showing numbers of positive and negative test results in rows, and disease cases, disease-free cases and totals in columns, along with values for sensitivity (80 per cent), specificity (90 per cent), PPV (seven per cent) and NPV (99.8 per cent)
Sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV at one per cent disease prevalence. (Priyanka Gogna), Author provided

 

So, when the disease has low prevalence, the PPV of the test can be very low. This means that the probability that someone that tested positive actually has COVID-19 is low. Of course, depending on the sensitivity, specificity and the prevalence in the population, the reverse can be true as well: someone that tested negative might not truly be disease-free.

False positive and false negative tests in real life

What does this mean as mass testing begins for COVID-19? At the very least it means the public should have clear information about the implications of false positives. All individuals should be aware of the possibility of a false positive or false negative test, especially as we move to a heavier reliance on testing this fall to inform our actions and decisions. As we can see using some simple tables and math above, the PPV and NPV can be limiting even in the face of a “good” test with high sensitivity and specificity.

Without adequate understanding of the science behind testing and why false positives and false negatives happen, we might drive the public to further mistrust — and even question the usefulness — of public health and testing. Knowledge is power in this pandemic.The Conversation

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Priyanka Gogna, PhD Candidate, Epidemiology, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Informing and welcoming off-campus students

Queen’s leadership and staff are distributing COVID-19 information kits in near-campus neighbourhoods.

Queen's senior leadership team members welcome Queen's students in the University District
Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green, left, and Vice-Principal (University Relations) Michael Fraser stop at a house in the University District to welcome back students and provide important information related to COVID-19. (University Communications)

As the fall semester gets underway, Queen’s is going door-to-door to make sure students living off campus in Kingston feel welcomed, safe, and fully informed about their role during the pandemic. Over the past week, Queen’s staff and leadership have been walking through the university district neighbourhoods to hand out welcome kits full of important information related to COVID-19 to students in rented houses and apartments near the campus.

“This is an unusual year where students living in Kingston will have limited activity on campus, and we want to make sure that they feel welcomed and supported by the university. Their responsibilities to the community also look different this year, as they have a critical role to play to help keep everyone safe during the pandemic,” says Mark Green, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic).  “These packages are a part of the university’s larger ongoing plan to educate students on protecting themselves and the Kingston community.”

As they knock on doors, the Queen’s representatives are also having frank and productive conversations with students. All interactions are happening at an appropriate physical distance and with masks. And welcome kits are left outside the door so students can pick them up without contact.

“We are having great conversations with students and have been able to answer a lot of their questions about COVID-19 and about what it takes to be a good neighbour and citizen. And we’ve also gotten a good sense of how students are feeling and what their concerns are. This will help us support them going forward,” says Lindsay Winger, Assistant Dean, Support Services and Student Engagement.

The welcome kits include the COVID-19 Prevention Checklist and the Know your Student Household COVID-19 Plan. These documents help students understand the steps they can take to protect themselves from COVID-19 and how to develop a plan in case someone in their household becomes ill or needs to self-isolate.  

The Off-Campus Student Living Guide, also included in the welcome kits, helps connect students to all of the services and supports available from the university. It also helps them understand how to play a positive role in the community during the pandemic. The guide covers a wide variety of topics, including tips on staying informed, getting engaged in the community, keeping the community safe, and exploring Kingston.  

Rounding out the kits are some useful items for student households. Each kit comes with a bottle of hand sanitizer, courtesy of Student Wellness Services, and also a refrigerator magnet, so that students can keep important documents in a common area where all housemates can access them. A poster supplied by the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) provides helpful information about utilities and garbage in Kingston. And KFL&A Public Health contributes some documents about health and safety guidelines.

Jenn Stephenson at the door
Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science Jenn Stephenson, left, and student volunteer Emma Ritcey, right, provide a welcome package and speak with a student living in the University District. (University Communications) 

Keeping the campus and community safe

This outreach effort is part of the broader campaign Queen’s has been engaged in to promote public health and safety for new and returning students. Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane and student leaders have sent a message to all students, encouraging them to follow all public health guidelines while in Kingston. Queen’s has also been sending a high volume of safety messages to students through a social media campaign.

As Queen’s resumes limited on-campus activities, it is taking extensive measures to ensure health and safety. A reduced number of students moved into residences over a five-day period under a new process that ensured physical distancing. The Athletics and Recreation Centre has begun a phased reopening with many new health and safety protocols. And a COVID-19 assessment tool has been added to SeQure, the Queen’s mobile safety app.

To learn more, visit the COVID-19 information website.

 

Connecting students with Kingston

A group of students is launching a website to help their peers get involved in the local community.

Photograph of downtown Kingston
The KS ConnectHub will help students find ways to safely take part in and give back to the Kingston community during the pandemic.

Part of the student experience at Queen’s is taking part in the Kingston community. But due to COVID-19, the reduced number of students in Kingston may be wondering how they can safely and responsibly get involved in the city. That’s why a group of Queen’s students in the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) Spread Innovation Challenge is creating the KS ConnectHub (Kingston-Student ConnectHub), a website to help the tricolour community find ways to safely take part in and give back to the Kingston community during the pandemic.

“We feel a strong sense of connection to the Kingston community, and we wanted to find a way to help the people and businesses in town during this time. And we also wanted to do something to help students safely stay involved with the community despite everything that’s going on,” says Taylore Dodd, a Queen’s undergraduate in Arts and Science and one of the founders of KS ConnectHub

KS ConnectHub serves as a hub for information about Kingston businesses and non-profit organizations. Profiling a wide range of organizations, the website is organized around three pillars: Support Local, Get Involved, and Donate. These three categories show users options for exploring local businesses, volunteering with community groups, and donating to non-profits, respectively. It is designed with Queen’s students in mind, but anyone will be able use the site.

KS ConnectHub is led by a team of four founders, all of them students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. In addition to Dodd, the founders are Jack Chen, Simmona Coelho, and Yuelin Ge.

Surveying students and working with local leaders

To make sure their website addressed a real need, the KS ConnectHub team surveyed the Queen’s student body to learn their attitudes about COVID-19 and the coming academic year. They found that many new and returning students were concerned that they might not have a sense of connection to the Kingston community due to physical distancing.

“When we saw that students felt like they needed ways to connect to Kingston and safely take part in the life of the area, we knew that KS ConnectHub would offer something of value to Queen’s students, no matter what year or program they’re in,” says Dodd. “We hope that KS ConnectHub can make students feel less isolated during the pandemic, even while practicing all physical distancing and safety measures.”

The KS ConnectHub team has also been consulting with local leaders, including officials in the municipal government, to make sure that they are directing potential volunteers and donations to organizations that would have the most significant impact on the community.

Launching the website

The KS ConnectHub website is scheduled to launch during orientation so that it is up and running for the start of the fall term, when a reduced number of students will be returning to campus and the Kingston area. A number of local businesses and organizations are already working with KS ConnectHub to be featured on the website. And the team is still welcoming suggestions for additional businesses and organizations to feature. They are also seeking student volunteers to help manage the website.

All suggestions and enquiries can be directed to ksconnecthub@gmail.com.

KS ConnectHub is just one of the student-led ventures taking part in the DDQIC Spread Innovation Challenge. Through the challenge, the DDQIC is providing funding and mentorship to teams of student entrepreneurs who are building solutions to tackle the challenges facing healthcare systems, livelihoods, economies, and communities during COVID-19.

To keep up with KS Connect Hub, follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn @ksconnecthub.

A safe start to move-in

First-year students who opted for a residence room on campus will be carefully moving in this week.

  • A sign displays the steps for the key pick-up process
    Signs at Richardson Stadium lay out the steps for the contactless key pick-up process.
  • Student volunteers help guide people through the key pick-up process
    Students remain in their vehicles while staff members hand them their keys through the window.
  • A first-year student removes items from the back of an SUV as he moves into residence
    A student unloads boxes to move into Victoria Hall.
  • Carts are lined up at Victoria Hall behind a sign explaining the sanitization process
    Carts and frequently touched surfaces like door handles are sanitized routinely.
  • A student and a parent move items out of the back of an SUV as she moves into residence
    A student gets ready to move into Leonard Hall.
  • A student is helped as she uses carts to move in to residence.
    A student uses a sanitized cart to bring her belongings into her new residence room.

The residence move-in process kicked off on Tuesday, Sept. 1. Typically, more than 4,000 students move in on one day over Labour Day weekend. This year, fewer than 2,000 students will be moving in over a five-day period that runs until Sept. 5.

Queen’s has put many physical distancing measures in place through all stages of the move-in process to promote the health and safety of the campus and the Kingston community. When students first arrive, they head to Richardson Stadium, where there is a contactless key pick-up location. Students remain in their cars, and a Queen’s staff member hands them their room keys through the window.

There are also staggered times for moving in during each of the five days, to ensure that students can practice physical distancing. At each residence hall, frequently touched surfaces, such as carts and elevator buttons, are sanitized routinely.

While they live in residence, students will be protected by a variety of safety measures. No guests will be permitted into any residence building. All students will be living in single rooms and sharing a bathroom with only a small number of other students. To limit the number of people students are in contact with, floors are being organized by academic program.

Move-in day usually marks the beginning of orientation. This year, orientation is entirely online, and it began on Aug. 24 and will run until Sept. 4.

To learn more, visit the residence website and the orientation website.

Safely moving into residence

New procedures for student move-in will support campus and community safety.

Photograph of Leonard Hall
Move-in for the reduced number of students living on campus will take place from Sept.1 to Sept. 5 at staggered times throughout the day.

The Labour Day weekend is usually an incredibly busy one at Queen’s, with first-year students all moving into residence for the start of the fall term. It’s also an important milestone for the students who move in, as unpacking their boxes in their residence room marks the beginning of their Queen’s experience.  

Due to COVID-19, moving in will look different this year for the reduced number of students living on campus. A new move-in process is being implemented to prioritize the health and safety of students, their families and supporters, staff, and the Kingston community.

This year, move in will take place over five days from Sept. 1 to Sept. 5 at staggered times throughout the day.

“Keeping students, families, supports, Queen’s staff, and the community safe during move-in is our top priority. Our new procedures will make it possible for everyone to maintain a safe physical distance throughout the process,” says Leah Wales, Executive Director, Housing and Ancillary Services.

For the fall, Queen’s has reduced the number of students who can live in residence to approximately half of the usual total. And only 10 of the 17 buildings will be in use.

During the move-in week, no more than 450 students will move into residence on one day, and students can bring a maximum of two people with them for assistance. When they arrive on campus, students will head to Richardson Stadium, where there is a contactless check-in station. Students will remain in their cars while they pick up the key to their room.  Queen’s staff will be present during the move-in days to provide information and directions, however the typical large numbers of volunteers will not be involved in move-in this year, in order to maintain physical distancing.

Additional measures have been put in place inside the residences to promote safety during all move-in days. There is a planned movement flow throughout the buildings to maximize physical distancing, everyone must wear a face covering, and the university has placed COVID-19 informational signs and hand sanitizers throughout all buildings. There will be frequent cleanings of surfaces such as door handles and elevator buttons throughout each day.

Traffic and parking

Compared to previous years, move-in days will have limited impact on traffic and parking in the campus area. There will be no closures of public streets around residence buildings.

Bader Lane will be restricted to one-way traffic, west-bound only, and no parking will be permitted on the street. These changes will be in effect from Tuesday Sept. 1 at 8 am through Saturday Sept. 5 at 9 pm. In addition, parking restrictions will be in place for the five-day period, on the following streets:

  • Lower Albert, from Queen’s Crescent to King St.
  • Queen’s Crescent
  • Collingwood St., from King to Queen’s Crescent
  • Stuart St., from University to Albert

Representatives from the City of Kingston have approved the university’s traffic management plan.

Safe return to campus

While they live in residence, students will be protected by a variety of safety measures. No guests will be permitted into any residence building. All students will be living in single rooms and sharing a bathroom with only a small number of other students. To limit the number of people students are in contact with, floors are being organized by academic program.

Queen’s is taking a variety of actions to ensure the safety of the campus and Kingston communities beyond residences as well. New and returning students are being asked to take important safety measures, including testing and limiting contact with others. The university has also launched a communications and advertising campaign that directs students to important information that will help them keep themselves and the campus and Kingston communities safe.

Learn more about plans for residence move-in days and residence safety on the Queen’s Residences website.

For more information about the university’s plans for the fall semester, see the Queen’s COVID-19 website.

A national health data infrastructure could manage pandemics with less disruption

 

A young man on a subway wears a mask
Using data to manage the spread of coronavirus means that work and everyday life could quickly resume. (Shutterstock)

If we did not know it before, we know it now: pandemics present dire threats to our lives, similar to climate change and nuclear proliferation. Confronting these threats requires social and technical innovation and the willingness to view potential solutions in entirely new ways.

As Canada struggles with calibrating its response to COVID-19, the limits of our existing crisis strategies are plain to see.

Political leaders are stuck between controlling the spread of the pandemic and resuming commercial and economic activity. How quickly should restrictions on confinement and social distancing be relaxed? And for whom? Their responses rely largely on the extensive use of personal protective equipment (notably masks), deployment of immunity tests and test-and-tracing technologies.

There are two problems with this approach: first, they are based on after-the-fact views of COVID-19’s spread. And second, this approach treats the pandemic as a medical problem.

Managing the unknowns

The facts of this virus are becoming clear. While it is hard to know who is infected given that many may be asymptomatic, we do know that the vast majority of those who become infected will not experience severe symptoms. Data from France show that if everyone gets infected, only approximately one per cent of the population will experience symptoms severe enough to require admission to an intensive care unit.

Instead of using the blunt instrument approach of designing public health policy for an entire population, would it make more sense to predict who would fall into that highly vulnerable one per cent group and then devote the state’s resources to protecting them. That way, those who are less vulnerable can continue about their lives, while those who are more vulnerable would be better protected.

Different perspectives

Governments are not following this path. They see COVID-19 as primarily a medical problem when it is really an information problem. If it were to be seen as an information problem, then potential solutions are possible. These solutions use advanced information technologies that have proven successful in other contexts.

Consider personalized prediction. Machine-learning models fed with vast quantities of health data, for example, could be trained to make clinical risk predictions. Public health leaders could use these prediction models to identify those who are vulnerable and who would need to be quarantined and prioritized for access to scarce medical resources, such as personal protective equipment, dedicated health support, free delivery of groceries and other necessities.

Personalized prediction, based on machine learning and artificial intelligence, has transformed businesses over the last 20 years. Netflix evaluates consumers’ characteristics and past choices to make personalized recommendations about what they might watch next. Amazon uses the same approach to recommend future purchases based on past spending behaviour.

A similar approach could be taken to measure individuals’ clinical risk of suffering severe outcomes if infected during a pandemic such as COVID-19. What would this look like if rolled out on a country-wide scale?

Each person would receive an electronic message with their clinical risk score, which would be derived automatically from their medical records and reflect how vulnerable they are to a particular virus. Those with predicted scores above a certain threshold would be classified as “severe” or “high risk.” They would be temporarily isolated and supported. Those with scores below a threshold would be able to return to a more-or-less normal life.

A young man with a mask works at a laptop.
Identifying and protecting the more vulnerable members of a population would enable the development of herd immunity, and a quicker return to work. (Shutterstock)

Data-informed policies

A personalized approach to clinical risk during a pandemic outbreak has multiple benefits. It could protect medical systems from being overwhelmed and communities from the economic pain of indiscriminate lock-downs. It could help build herd immunity with lower mortality — and fast. It could also allow a more targeted and fairer allocation of resources, from test kits to hospital beds. Unlike medical tests that are scarce, expensive and slow to deploy, a data-driven digital personalization approach could be applied quickly and is relatively easy to scale.

An approach based on data science and machine learning could also enable safer de-confinement at a much faster rate than current best practices. In one study, my co-authors and I used COVID-19 data from France as of early May 2020 to understand the public health policies regarding the enacting and lifting of restrictions intended to control the spread of disease.

Our simulations show that isolation entry and exit policies could be substantially faster and safer using personalized prediction models. Our simulations indicated that the complete lifting of COVID-19 restrictions could be undertaken in six months, with only 30 per cent of the population being under strict isolation for longer than three months — all without overwhelming the medical system. In contrast, using conventional methods, simulations indicated that the complete exit would take 17 months, and 40 per cent of the population would be subject to strict isolation for more than one year.

This ideal scenario may seem like a moonshot, but a simple version could be designed and rolled out fairly quickly. Governments can focus on the data and models that can be deployed for COVID-19. For example, age, body mass index and hypertension and diabetes data for each person — all of which can be assessed at a community pharmacy for everyone within weeks and applied to an individual’s health card — can be used to train models. Even with just this information, public policy can be much more targeted.

National data infrastructure

What would need to happen to implement this new model on a province- or country-wide basis? For one thing, a deep data pool. Training a machine learning model for a pandemic such as COVID-19 would require data on thousands of people who tested positive and were hospitalized for the virus. It would also require medical data for everyone else in the population, akin to the information dossiers that big tech firms such as Facebook or Netflix have on consumers.

This is why government commitment to building a robust health data infrastructure is so important. Unfortunately, in Canada as elsewhere, the state of electronic health records varies widely. Depending on the jurisdiction, records may be incomplete or difficult to access, and information may not be standardized. A commitment to address these shortcomings is paramount. Privacy protections and cybersecurity provisions would need to be developed and well communicated.

As COVID-19 shows, the upside of applying advanced analytical tools used successfully elsewhere vastly outweighs the downside of staying the course. The question is not whether countries can apply artificial intelligence at a health-system scale. It is already being used at scale for commercial purposes that hardly involve life-or-death issues. The question for policy makers is: Can we afford not to go down this path?The Conversation

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Anton Ovchinnikov, Distinguished Professor of Management Analytics at Smith School of Business, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Supporting research at Queen’s University

The Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s provides internal funding to help researchers accelerate their programs and engage in knowledge mobilization.

Queen’s University has awarded more than $1 million in funding to its researchers. Through unique competitions such as Wicked Ideas, Queen's Research Opportunities Fund, and national programs like the SSHRC Institutional Grant (SIG), the Vice-Principal (Research) is supporting researchers at all stages of their careers and across all disciplines – from discovering innovative solutions, to artistic production, and knowledge mobilization.

In its inaugural year, the Wicked Ideas initiative was designed to support research collaborations across disciplines tackling wicked problems, issues so multi-dimensional and complex that they require multiple perspectives to solve them. Some of the successful projects include exploring cleantech, Lyme disease, and microplastics.

Additionally, through the internal funding initiatives several grants were also awarded to Queen’s researchers who have pivoted their research to help confront COVID-19. These projects ranged from determinants of self-rated health, to understanding resilience and fragility, and the spatial implications of the Bank of Canada’s response to COVID-19.

“It is extraordinarily exciting to see the research ideas that are brewing here on campus, matched with the commitment we have to making things happen," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). "I truly look forward to the outcomes of these awards.”

Learn more about the 2020 recipients and the individual internal funds below. For more information on the research happening at Queen’s, as well as Queen’s researchers’ efforts to confront COVID-19, visit the Research@Queen’s website.


Wicked Ideas

The Wicked Ideas Competition is a Vice-Principal (Research) pilot initiative to fund and support research collaboration and excellence. Wicked Problems are issues so complex and dependent on so many factors that it is hard to grasp what exactly the problem is, or how to tackle it. Wicked Ideas are needed to solve these problems and demand the input of multiple disciplines with relevant practical expertise.

2020 Recipients

Investigator Project Title
David Lyon (Sociology) &
Dan Cohen (Geography and Planning)
Big Data Exposed: What Smartphone Metadata Reveals about Users
John Allingham (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) &
Chantelle Capicciotti (Chemistry)
Design and Development of Novel Classes of Actin-Targeting Toxin-Glycan-Antibody Conjugates
Susan Bartels (Emergency Medicine) &
Stéfanie von Hlatky (Political Studies)
Peace Support Operations (PSO) in Countries Affected by Political Instability, Armed Conflict, and Insecurity
Joe Bramante (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) &
James Fraser (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy)
Macro Coherent Quantum Transitions in Parahydrogen
Kevin Stamplecoskie (Chemistry) &
Cathy Crudden (Chemistry)
Immortal Solar Cells
Kerry Rowe (Civil Engineering) &
Fady Abdelaal (Civil Engineering)
Using Cleantech to Monitor Geosynthetic Liners in Frozen Grounds for Sustainable Development of Sub-Arctic and Arctic Mineral Resources
Graeme Howe (Chemistry) &
Philip Jessop (Chemistry)
Solving the Water-Removal Bottleneck in Sustainable Chemistry
Nora Fayed (Rehabilitation Therapy) &
Claire Davies (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)
SOCIALITE: An Emotional Augmentation System for Children with Profound Communication Disability
Laurence Yang (Chemical Engineering) &
Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering)
Reducing the Greenhouse Gas Burden of Livestock by Harnessing Carbon-Neutral Algae to Produce Milk
Robert Colautti (Biology) &
Nader Ghasemlou (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences)
The E.D.G.E. of Lyme
Mark Daymond (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) & 
Suraj Persaud (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)
Materials Performance in Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) Environments Proposed for Advanced Nuclear Systems
Heather Castleden (Geography and Planning) &
Diane Orihel (Biology)
The Spirit of the Lakes and All Their Relations: Two-Eyed Seeing in Microplastics Research

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Institutional Grant

Through its SSHRC Institutional Grant (SIG) funding opportunity, SSHRC provides annual block grants to help eligible Canadian postsecondary institutions fund, through their own merit review processes, small-scale research and research-related activities by their faculty in the social sciences and humanities.

Explore Grant

This grant supports social sciences and humanities researchers at any career stage with funds to allow for small-scale research project development or pilot work, or to allow for participation of students in research projects.

2020 Recipients

Investigator Project Title
Cynthia Levine-Rasky (Sociology) The Good Fight: Voices of Elder Activists
Theodore Christou (Education) Map Making and Indigenous History Education: Supporting Reconciliatory Education by Visualizing Canada’s Indian Day Schools
Heather McGregor (Education) History Education in the Anthropocene
Grégoire Webber (Law) Recovering the Good in the Law
Jennifer Hosek (Languages, Literatures, and Cultures) Cultures of Resilience and Fragility under COVID: Does Money Matter?
Leandre Fabrigar (Psychology) Exploring Objective and Subjective Measures of Attitude Bases
Dan Cohen (Geography and Planning) The Spatial Implications of Bank of Canada’s COVID-19 Response
Richard Ascough (Religion) Associations and Christ Groups under Roman Colonization: Assimilation and Resistance in the Western Provinces
Gabriel Menotti Miglio Pinto Gonring (Film and Media) Audiovisual-made Museums: An Archaeology of Video as an Exhibition Platform
Danielle Blouin (Emergency Medicine) Accreditation of Medical Education Programs: What are the Effective Components?
Heather Macfarlane (English Language and Literature) How to be at Home in Canada: Literary Land Claims in Indigenous and Diaspora Texts
Sergio Sismondo (Philosophy) Epistemic Corruption
Collin Grey (Law) Humanitarianism and Deportation
Martha Munezhi (Policy Studies) Determinants of Self-rated Health in the Midst of COVID-19
Ian Robinson (Film and Media) Film and Placemaking
Ruqu Wang (Economics) Modeling International Trade Disputes
Marcus Taylor (Global Development Studies) Sustainability Transformations in Eastern Ontario Agriculture
Alison Murray (Art History and Art Conservation) Teaching Science to Art Conservation Students: Threshold Concepts as a Revitalizing Tool
Amanda Ross-White (Library) Predatory, Deceptive or Imitation: What Motivates Publishers and Editors on the Margins of Scholarly Literature?

Exchange Grant

This grant supports the organization of small-scale knowledge mobilization activities in order to encourage collaboration and dissemination of research results both within and beyond the academic community, as well as allow researchers to attend or present research at scholarly conferences and other venues to advance their careers and promote the exchange of ideas.

2020 Recipients

Investigator Project Title
Elizabeth Brule (Gender Studies) Indigenous Resurgence, Decolonization and the Politics of Solidarity Work
Elizabeth Anne Kelley (Psychology) Utilitarianism: A New Strengths-Based Approach to ASD

Queen’s Research Opportunities Funds

QROF represent a strategic investment in areas of institutional research strength that provide researchers and scholars opportunities to accelerate their programs and research goals.

Catalyst Fund

This fund was created to enhance areas of research excellence that are of strategic importance to the university by giving scholars an opportunity to accelerate their research programs. Ten awards were allocated with a minimum of six awards designated for Early Career Researchers, defined as those who are within 10 years of their first academic appointment. Applicants were required to hold Tri-Council funding or have applied for Tri-Council funding within the last two years.

2020 Recipients

Investigator Project Title
SSHRC  
Grégoire Webber (Law) Human Goods and Human Laws
Meredith Chivers (Psychology)

Racializing and Diversifying Sexual Response: The Effects of Racial Identification, Emotional Appraisal, and Racial Bias on the Physiological and Psychological Sexual Responses of Black and White Women Viewing Racially Diverse Erotic Stimuli

Grace Adeniyi-Ogunyankin (Geography and Planning) Started from the Bottom: Youth Social Mobility and Affective Labour in Ibadan, Nigeria
NSERC  
Vicki Friesen (Biology) Using Whole Genome Sequencing to help Protect the Potential of Wildlife to Adapt to Changing Arctic Ecosystems, Focusing on Species Important to Indigenous Subsistence and Culture  
Chantelle Capicciotti (Chemistry) Targeting Cancer Glycans with Imaging Probes - New Frontiers to Chemically Map Tissue Surfaces
Jennifer Day (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering)

Investigation of Sea Stack Stability in Popular Geotourism Destinations, Prediction of Their Structural Collapse, Evaluation of the Effects of Sea Stack Collapse on Public Safety, and Forecasting Risk Associated with Climate Change Evolution

CIHR  
Nader Ghasemlou (Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine, Biomedical & Molecular sciences) Circadian Control of Pain and Neuroinflammation
Eun-Young Lee (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies) Knowledge into Action: Development of Carbon Footprint Equivalences that Incorporate Lifestyle Behaviours for Dual Benefits of Environmental Sustainability and Human Health
Susan Bartels (Emergency Medicine) Improving Emergency Department Care Experiences for Equity-Seeking Groups in Kingston: A Mixed Methods Research Study
David Maslove (Critical Care Medicine & Medicine)

Deep Learning Applied to High-Frequency Physiologic Waveforms for the Detection of Atrial Fibrillation in Critical Illness

Arts Funds

This fund makes an institutional commitments in support of artistic production and expression that strategically align with the university’s scholarly strengths and priorities. This includes supporting artists, their contribution to the scholarly community and to advancing Queen’s University. The Arts Fund is also intended to attract outstanding artists to Queen’s University each year.

Artistic Production

This fund assists in the actual production of a work of art, such as the creation of a piece of visual art; the writing of a novel, poem, play or screen play; the composition of music; the production of a motion picture; the performance of a play, a musical composition, a piece of performance art, or the production of a master recording.

2020 Recipients

Investigator Project Title
Gabriel Menotti Miglio Pinto Gonring (Film and Media) Hollow Constructions
Matthew Rogalsky (Film and Media) Highly Directional Loudspeakers: Research and Development for Distanced Sound Performance and Installation

Visiting Artist in Residence

To enrich the cultural life of the university and to encourage exchange between artists at Queen’s University and the broader community. It is intended to provide educational and scholarly opportunities for artists by facilitating the extended presence on campus of visiting artists. Residencies are normally two to eight weeks in duration.

2020 Recipients

Investigator Project Title
Carolyn Smart (English Language and Literature) Writer-in-Residence for Queen's University: Kaie Kellough
Juliana Bevilacqua (Art History and Art Conservation) Rosana Paulino: Project North-South Dialogues
Karen Dubinsky (Global Development Studies) Cuban Roots in Canadian Soil: Canada's Cuban Musical History
 

Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition winners announced

The winning pitches of the ninth Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) have been announced with seven teams receiving funding.

This year’s edition moved online and hosted its biggest-ever cohort with more than 170 participants from around the globe and 42 teams taking part in QICSI and the newly-launched SpreadInnovation (COVID-19 innovation) challenge.

By introducing the SpreadInnovation Challenge stream, the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) stepped up to provide opportunities for students and community members who had lost opportunities due to the pandemic. Specifically geared toward COVID-19, participants were tasked with building a solution for one of the pressing challenges facing our healthcare systems, livelihoods, economies, and communities. Teams were provided more than 100 days of free online training, mentorship and support from the QICSI program.

The Final Pitch Competition

After 16 weeks of hard work, 11 teams from the QICSI and the SpreadInnovation Challenge QICSI competed alongside two regional ventures in the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

The virtual format of the final pitch competition allowed DDQIC to invite a judging panel of esteemed Queen’s University alumni hailing from the Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Kingston innovation ecosystems. The judging panel was comprised of Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande (Sc’79), founder and chairman of Sparta Group LLC and founder of the Deshpande Foundation; Lauren Long (ArtSci’11), senior software engineer at Google; Anton Toutov (ArtSci’11), founder and chief science officer at Fuzionaire; and Brian Dodo (Sc;’16), founder and principal designer at BmDodo Strategic Design.

Bino Books, founded by Andena Xhiku (Comm’21), Danielle Baxter (ArtSci’19), Sydney Terry (ArtSci’20), Jessica Dassanayake (Comp’20), won the Grand Prize of $20,000, and received $10,000 in additional funding.

RESULTS

Learn more about all the finalists and their projects.

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