New modeling tool for COVID-19 mitigation in the food industry
Keeping the essential food production industry going during the pandemic has been difficult, since workers, who often need to work in close proximity to each other, have been falling ill or unable to work due to control strategies. . The reduction in food production capacity and the resulting facility closures not only affect the mental health and well-being of workers, but also threaten the country’s food supply.
Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a team of researchers from Cornell University, led by Dr. Renata Ivanek and in partnership with the food safety software company iFoodDecisionSciences (iFoodDS), has developed a mathematical model that predicts illnesses and work absences due to COVID-19 among farm workers.
Using a computer simulation, the model tests the effectiveness of different mitigation strategies with the aim of identifying those that minimize cases of COVID-19 among workers and maintain the best possible production. The model, called CoV Research Control (Food Indianaustry VOCid-19 againstolold) is available free of charge in interactive form web-based decision support tool. Through a user-friendly interface, a user enters the characteristics of his specific farm in the model. Then, based on user input, CoV Research Control runs a simulation on the iFoodDS server. The user receives a confidential report with model predictions to support decision making and contingency planning regarding COVID-19 mitigation in their operation.
The report helps users strategize to minimize risk to workers and, at the same time, keep production going to the highest, but still safe, degree possible. While the current version of CoV Research Control Modeling tool is designed specifically for farm produce, future versions of the Covid-19 model tool in other labor-intensive food production environments, particularly in dairy, beef / pork, poultry and products processing facilities.
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COVID-19 SERIES: RAPID RESPONSE RESEARCH