Heartfelt congratulations are due to Professor Ji Zhu and four of his PhD students: Yang Li, Cheng Ma, Weijing Tang, and recent graduate Xuefei Zhang! Their team, co-led by Dr. Zhu and his collaborator, Dr. Brahmajee Nallamothu from the University of Michigan Medical School, won the top prize in the American Heart Association’s first-ever global COVID-19 data challenge.
The COVID-19 data challenge prompted researchers to gain a better understanding of the relationships between COVID-19 and a myriad of other health conditions, risk factors, health disparities, and social determinants that may result in an increased risk of severe illness or mortality.
The team’s project was titled “Population-based Features and Their Association with Coronavirus Disease 2019 Infection in the United States” and analyzed national data for COVID-19 risk factors including age, medical conditions, and immune-compromised states. They also examined the impact of university and college fall semester 2020 reopening policies in the local counties where those institutions are based. Overall, the researchers determined that holding in-person classes was associated with greater numbers of COVID-19 cases while holding classes virtually or in a hybrid mode was associated with a lower number of COVID-19 cases.
The work of Dr. Zhu and his team may be significant to inform policymakers on how to reopen businesses across the U.S., as well as anticipate rising case numbers as a result of reopening.