MONCTON, N.B. -- A New Brunswick scientist is part of a national COVID-19 task force that is looking into a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Matthew Betti is an assistant professor at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., with a focus on math and computer science.

Betti’s work on the COVID-19 task force includes crunching numbers to determine things like how much PPE Canada needs – province by province.

“The public health agency of Canada put together this task force to make sure that the research they're using to make decisions is as current and as new as possible,” says Betti.

“We basically just take mathematical equations, we build them, we estimate the number of infected, how many people will have severe infections versus mild infections, how many people will require hospitalization versus clinics."

Betti says, depending on the amount of doctors and nurses in the province, estimates can then be made on how much PPE is required and when.

Betti works with dozens of researchers, including his Toronto colleague Jane Heffernan, a York University math and statistics professor.

“We're also looking at how to de-escalate the social distancing over time so as to not overburden the health care sector too much,” says Heffernan.

“We’re also looking at an in-house model to see if we can get some information on how a vaccine might be effective in the future.”

Their research will help determine how to reopen the economy. Betti says it is important to implement adjustments at a staggered pace. A dramatic change could reset the country, as if no preventative measures were ever taken.

“We're looking at say, a certain percentage of the population going back to work, going back to school in two week increments, in 30-day increments and seeing the differences,” says Betti.

The research team says emerging out of physical-distancing will need to involve careful choices and controlled steps in order to safely return to normal.