Demystifying the Math of the Coronavirus

Abstract:

We provide an elementary mathematical description of the spread of the coronavirus. We explain two fundamental relationships: How the rate of growth in new infections is determined by the effective reproductive number ; and how the effective reproductive number is affected by social distancing. By making a key approximation, we are able to formulate these relationships very simply and thereby avoid complicated mathematics. The same approximation leads to an elementary method for estimating the effective reproductive number.