MSFHR and Victoria Hospitals Foundation partner on funding research to detect future COVID-19 outbreaks on Vancouver Island

13 August 2020

Photo credit: University of Victoria photo services

COVID-19 is causing uncertainties in almost every aspect of life, and many of us find ourselves wishing we could see into the future. While researchers may not be able to predict future events quite yet, they can get close with innovative mathematical modelling and the right team in place. Dr. Laura Cowen, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Victoria, is leading a team in developing a model that estimates rates of unreported COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island and forecasts the likelihood of transmission in high-risk groups, like the elderly and people experiencing homelessness.

Using Island Health data and an adapted Island Health-developed contact tracing tool, the research team will identify locations across the region where vulnerable populations might inadvertently contract COVID-19, making targeted prevention strategies possible.

Dr. Cowen and her team’s research is made possible with funding through MSFHR’s COVID-19 Research Response Fund and Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s donors. The MSFHR COVID-19 Research Response Fund is supported with $2 million in funding from the Province of BC with additional funding from MSFHR and partners. The fund is designed to address both immediate and emerging issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and provide necessary evidence for decision-makers, particularly around avoiding or mitigating future waves of transmission.

The funding also supports six University of Victoria Master’s level co-op students on 8-month work terms, who are completing the modelling and tool development under the supervision of Dr. Cowen’s research team, which consists of co-investigators and collaborators from Island Health and the University of Victoria.

Dr. Cowen’s research will play a critical role in guiding Island Health to manage health resources for future waves of COVID-19. Learn more about Dr. Cowen’s project here.

MSFHR’s partnership with Victoria Hospitals Foundation is in support of BC’s coordinated provincial research response to the COVID-19 pandemic, involving the coordination of assets that support health research as well as innovative, cross-disciplinary researchers and teams working in the short and long term to produce the evidence BC needs to stay healthy and position our province as a leader in mitigating the effects of the pandemic.