The CovidReduce group formed in April 2020 led by Prof. Panos K. Chrysanthis (Computer Science) and Prof. Walter Schneider (LRDC, Psychology, Bioengineering, Neurosurgery and Radiology) with the goal of providing tools to reduce COVID infection rates in Allegheny county and beyond. The CovidReduce group will accomplish this by providing users with education on how to protect themselves and loved ones through correct use of high-quality masks, ventilation, and social distancing. The actions will be implementable at modest cost and able to improve social behavior and economic interaction while achieving infection reduction in Pittsburgh. The program will bring together Pittsburgh and world expertise for science-based decision making to reduce COVID infection risk in Allegheny county. It will provide educational materials, software without charge, and hardware at affordable costs in Allegheny County, and it will share lessons learned and technology with the international community of researchers studying COVID.

The CovidReduce organization is hosted within the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and UPMC with links to scientific groups in Allegheny county and throughout the world. The CovidReduce group is made up of a volunteer group of over 30 faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, has production capacity from local businesses, and paid engineers, and administrative support staff (all currently part-time).

The project has four programs to inform and empower individuals and institutions to reduce Covid infection risk. The four programs are:
1) CovidReduce – Scenario Analysis will provide pragmatic tools to quantify airborne infection risk for use in schools, daycare centers, offices, at industry locations, retail stores, home, medical treatment centers, and other locations. Tools will include quantitative infection modeling, AI empowered advice, and automatic presentation and report writing tools to identify strategies that can typically result in 10-100x reduction of risk for users. These concepts and tools can be learned and used quickly (within four hours) by people with basic spreadsheet skills to generate comprehensive assessments, and formal presentations and reports automatically.
2) CovidReduce - Educator to inform the public and schools. To effectively combat the pandemic we must make the science understandable so individuals can be informed to “choose wisely” and take actions that keep their families safer while preserving as much of “normal life” and economic productivity as possible. Our Science Education Technology Mathematics (STEM) programs will empower an eighth grader to understand the pragmatics of infection risk reduction through hands on “sink top” and in classroom experiments with Allegheny county schools, including those in underserved communities. They will learn about infection/environment and quantitative monitoring of airborne spread in a 1-5 hours education program for eighth to twelfth graders. The program will provide material to inform media, administrators, and the general public on pragmatic infection reduction actions they can take during the holiday season this year.
3) CovidReduce – MaskTester/Fit Trainer to assess cloth and filter (KN95/N95) masks. Quantify the efficiency and fit training of mask wearers on campuses, schools, daycares, medical facilities, office work sites, and retail sites to improve the quality and effectiveness of masking 100x from current median levels. Mask compliance is improving (e.g., 85% in Allegheny county). Unfortunately, the median type of mask used provides less than desirable protection; a squared protection factor of the spreader and infectee of only 2 (PF2 =2; reducing infection virus inhalation by only 51%). In contrast, the use of available higher quality masks (KN95) produces a PF2 =400; a reduction of 99.75% or 200x reduction in airborne infection when compared to the median cloth mask. We will address psychological and economic barriers to increasing mask effectiveness. By providing individuals a no cost 5-minute test of their mask and sending them the report, we raise awareness on the topic of mask quality and demonstrate how easy it is to improve. We can deliver 100x reduction in risk for many people. This will move many in Allegheny county to better masking, which would result in reduced infections. The tester will also provide “fit testing” that can double the PF of mask11 use. In schools and campuses, we will offer free mask testing, free high-quality masks, and instruction on safe reuse. With the modest cost of $10/six months per person for masks, we can deliver a 100x reduction of risk. This is particularly important for at risk populations. The program will find and train an individual to safely do mask testing, fit testing and education at scheduled events in Allegheny county, giving priority to schools.
4) CovidReduce – HealthMonitor App Android/iPhone tool to lower infection risk over the course of a day and integrate the benefits described in the first three programs. The app provides anonymized monitoring to reduce risk exposure on campus or in commercial spaces (e.g., stores, restaurants) to allow the user to see and reduce their risk status. Like many smartphone health apps that provide a budget for weight/calorie reduction, this counts possible infection Quanta (infection dose) and advises the user on how to reduce exposure risk. It relates data on location and person density (e.g., from Google real time person density reports based on cell phones) to estimate exposure risk. The app can be used to profile the scale of risks of users on a daily basis. It will provide input that would reduce risk of being infected or infecting a family member more than 10x in a typical case.