Effects of short-term travel on COVID-19 spread: A novel SEIR model and case study in Minnesota

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2 Scopus citations


The novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 was first identified in Hubei Province, China in December, 2019. Within a matter of months the virus had spread and become a global pandemic. In addition to international air travel, local travel (e.g. by passenger car) contributes to the geographic spread of COVID-19. We modify the common susceptibleexposed- infectious-removed (SEIR) virus spread model and investigate the extent to which short-term travel associated with driving influences the spread of the virus. We consider the case study of the US state of Minnesota, and calibrated the proposed model with travel and viral spread data. Using our modified SEIR model that considers local short-term travel, we are able to better explain the virus spread than using the long-term travel SEIR model. Short-term travel associated with driving is predicted to be a significant contributor to the historical and future spread of COVID-19. The calibrated model also predicts the proportion of infections that were detected. We find that if driving trips remain at current levels, a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases may be observed in Minnesota, while decreasing intrastate travel could help contain the virus spread.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0245919
JournalPloS one
Issue number1 January
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. CMMI-1935541 (Levin) and CNS-2028946 (Stern). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Levin et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Automobiles
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Minnesota/epidemiology
  • Models, Biological
  • SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification
  • Travel

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article


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