New York has contained virus but not conquered it, expert warns Gov. Cuomo

Dr. Samir Bhatt of Imperial College, London, speaking via video call May 18, 2020, at NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily press briefing on COVID-19 Photo: videograb from link on NY.Gov.

As New York State attempts to recover and reopen in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo has recruited an Indo-British expert to advise him.

During  his much-anticipated daily fireside-style chat May 18, 2020, Gov. Cuomo welcomed Dr. Samir Bhatt, an expert on geostatistics from Imperial College, London, as an advisor to New York State.

Noting he was following the advise of experts from around the globe on the science of the coronavirus, Cuoma said, they would provide the guidelines for the best way going forward.

A number of projection models by experts from universities had not proved accurate, Cuomo said, but the one made by Dr. Bhatt “was the best, most accurate,”

“Dr. Bhatt deserves all our thanks because they really helped us go through this to date,” and it going to help go forward.

Bhatt, on a videocall from Imperial College, London, said it was a “professional honor” to work with Cuomo.

“Your state has already shown what can be achieved when policies are driven by science. The sacrifices people have made and will continue to make, deserve an applause,” Dr. Bhatt said.

“The leadership shown in New York during this crisis should be commended as an approach for others to follow,” he said.

“You in New York have successfully contained the virus for now,” Dr. Bhatt said, adding a warning, “But New York is not out of the woods yet. No states, no country is. As you reopen, New York must continue to watch the data and follow the science.”

“We are really eager to work with New York as they are approaching this crisis from a scientific perspective driven by data,” Dr. Bhatt continued. Data collected by New York which is leading in this effort, will combine with data from other places, to reach a scientific consensus which can then be used for decision-making, Dr. Bhatt emphasized.

Bhatt’s team is focused on “rigorous” modeling to track the ORT, or reproduction number, of the virus, going forward. If the R goes above one, Bhatt said, this means the virus is no longer contained.

The Imperial College team is tracking the spread of the virus and the disease with the “best data” possible, and as much data as possible. And the team is committed to “open science” Bhatt said. His team is currently reporting findings to European countries, as well as Brazil and Italy, relying on data on Google, and open source statistical tools developed by Columbia University, he said. The code is available for all to to see, test and improve, he said.

“As countries around the world, and states in the U.S. start reopening … we will see cases rise once again,” Dr. Bhatt warned. “And so New York must continue to be vigilant, and to follow the data.”

Dr. Bhatt is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health at Imperial College. He says his interests lie in development and application of inferential mathematical models to address policy-relevant questions about infectious diseases.

He has worked on Malaria and HIV. He is affiliated with the Earth Observation network; the Imperial College Network of Excellence in Malaria, and malaria modeling Research Group.




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