Demand Management in Action

From a supply chain perspective, pandemic response can be conceived as a local-to-global effort to manage demand for health care. Supply chain professionals typically work to deliver more faster. But in this case, we want to deliver fewer covid patients to hospitals and slow overall deliveries.

To do this, various methods have been deployed to slow transmission and reduce virulence in case of transmission. Since January 2020 several non-pharmaceutical methods have been attempted.  Since December 2020 a handful of vaccines have started to be used.

Non-pharmaceutical practices have been applied inconsistently.  But there is evidence that transmission velocity for the virus is reduced when people circulate less overall and per-capita time spent in crowded, non-ventilated, interior spaces is reduced. 

The interaction between human circulation and viral transmission is implied by chart below.  More localized results often suggest tighter correlations.  The CDC mobility site allows data-display at the state and county level.  For even more localized analysis and mitigation possibilities, please see this report from the journal Nature: Mobility Network Models for Covid-19.


Reduced circulation is a passive way to give the virus fewer options to reproduce, slowing overall transmission.  Vaccines are an active means of fighting the virus when an individual is exposed to the contagion.  Once a large proportion of the population — or a crucial sub-population — is vaccinated, the velocity of viral transmission (and disease consequences) can be substantially reduced.

Since mid-December the US vaccination campaign has focused on health-care providers and those over age 65.  Today roughly 80 percent of the older age cohort has been vaccinated.  Hospitalization rates for this population demonstrate the efficacy of vaccinations to reduce demand for health-care.  (Please see more from The Financial Times.)

The virus will continue to evolve in order to maximize its reproductive options.  Mid-April saw more new covid cases confirmed — 5 million plus — than any prior week.  The more human circulation, the more opportunity for viral evolution. The challenge is to evolve our pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical practices to minimize covid’s flow.  Until we achieve at least 70 percent local-to-global vaccination rates, interior crowds give the virus fertile incubators for finding ways around our best demand-management efforts.