Working Paper Article Version 2 This version is not peer-reviewed

System Engineering and Overshoot Damping for Epidemics Such as COVID-19

Version 1 : Received: 2 May 2020 / Approved: 3 May 2020 / Online: 3 May 2020 (06:33:02 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 5 May 2020 / Approved: 5 May 2020 / Online: 5 May 2020 (12:32:17 CEST)

How to cite: Shuler, R.L.; Koukouvitis, T.; Suematsu, D. System Engineering and Overshoot Damping for Epidemics Such as COVID-19. Preprints 2020, 2020050027 Shuler, R.L.; Koukouvitis, T.; Suematsu, D. System Engineering and Overshoot Damping for Epidemics Such as COVID-19. Preprints 2020, 2020050027


The goal of this paper is to contribute the perspective of a systems engineer to the effort to fight pandemics. The availability of low latency case data and effectiveness of social distancing suggest there is sufficient control for successful smoothing and targeting almost any desired level of low or high cases and immunity. This control proceeds from spontaneous public reaction to caseloads and news as well as government mediated recommendations and orders. We simulate multi-step and intermittent-with-feedback partial unlock of social distancing for rapidly-spreading moderate-mortality epidemics and pandemics similar to COVID-19. Optimized scenarios reduce total cases and therefore deaths typically 8% and up to 30% by controlling overshoot as groups cross the herd immunity threshold, or lower thresholds to manage medical resources and provide economic relief. We analyze overshoot and provide guidance on how to damp it. However, we find overshoot damping, whether from expert planning or natural public self-isolation, increases the likelihood of transition to an endemic disease. An SIR model is used to evaluate scenarios that are intended to function over a wide variety of parameters. The end result is not a case trajectory prediction, but a prediction of which strategies produce near-optimal results over a wide range of epidemiological and social parameters. Overshoot damping perversely increases the chance a pathogen will transition to an endemic disease, so we briefly describe the undershoot conditions that promote transition to endemic status.


Coronavirus; COVID-19; pandemic; partial unlock; social distancing; economic impact; ventilator utilization; SARS-CoV-2; overshoot; SIR; model; simulation; caseload management; undershoot


Public Health and Healthcare, Health Policy and Services

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 5 May 2020
Commenter: Robert Shuler
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: A section was added to discuss undershoot and transition of a pandemic to endemic status.  The probability of this increases when overshoot is optimized, and it was felt by the authors the paper should stand without an appropriate discussion of the risks.
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