skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on October 28, 2022

Title: Synergistic interventions to control COVID-19: Mass testing and isolation mitigates reliance on distancing
Stay-at-home orders and shutdowns of non-essential businesses are powerful, but socially costly, tools to control the pandemic spread of SARS-CoV-2. Mass testing strategies, which rely on widely administered frequent and rapid diagnostics to identify and isolate infected individuals, could be a potentially less disruptive management strategy, particularly where vaccine access is limited. In this paper, we assess the extent to which mass testing and isolation strategies can reduce reliance on socially costly non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as distancing and shutdowns. We develop a multi-compartmental model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission incorporating both preventative non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and testing and isolation to evaluate their combined effect on public health outcomes. Our model is designed to be a policy-guiding tool that captures important realities of the testing system, including constraints on test administration and non-random testing allocation. We show how strategic changes in the characteristics of the testing system, including test administration, test delays, and test sensitivity, can reduce reliance on preventative NPIs without compromising public health outcomes in the future. The lowest NPI levels are possible only when many tests are administered and test delays are short, given limited immunity in the population. Reducing reliance on NPIs is highly dependent on the ability of more » a testing program to identify and isolate unreported, asymptomatic infections. Changes in NPIs, including the intensity of lockdowns and stay at home orders, should be coordinated with increases in testing to ensure epidemic control; otherwise small additional lifting of these NPIs can lead to dramatic increases in infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Importantly, our results can be used to guide ramp-up of testing capacity in outbreak settings, allow for the flexible design of combined interventions based on social context, and inform future cost-benefit analyses to identify efficient pandemic management strategies. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Flegg, Jennifer A.
Award ID(s):
2028301 2037885
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
PLOS Computational Biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Background

    Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) have been implemented worldwide to curb COVID-19 spread. Belarus is a rare case of a country with a relatively modern healthcare system, where highly limited NPIs have been enacted. Thus, investigation of Belarusian COVID-19 dynamics is essential for the local and global assessment of the impact of NPI strategies.


    We integrate genomic epidemiology and surveillance methods to investigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Belarus in 2020. We utilize phylodynamics, phylogeography, and probabilistic bias inference to study the virus import and export routes, the dynamics of the effective reproduction number, and the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.


    Heremore »we show that the estimated cumulative number of infections by June 2020 exceeds the confirmed case number by a factor of ~4 (95% confidence interval (2; 9)). Intra-country SARS-CoV-2 genomic diversity originates from at least 18 introductions from different regions, with a high proportion of regional transmissions. Phylodynamic analysis indicates a moderate reduction of the effective reproductive number after the introduction of limited NPIs, but its magnitude is lower than for developed countries with large-scale NPIs. On the other hand, the effective reproduction number estimate is comparable with that for the neighboring Ukraine, where NPIs were broader.


    The example of Belarus demonstrates how countries with relatively low outward population mobility continue to be integral parts of the global epidemiological environment. Comparison of the effective reproduction number dynamics for Belarus and other countries reveals the effect of different NPI strategies but also emphasizes the role of regional Eastern European sociodemographic factors in the virus spread.

    « less
  2. Abstract Background The COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan started in December 2019 and was under control by the end of March 2020 with a total of 50,006 confirmed cases by the implementation of a series of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) including unprecedented lockdown of the city. This study analyzes the complete outbreak data from Wuhan, assesses the impact of these public health interventions, and estimates the asymptomatic, undetected and total cases for the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. Methods By taking different stages of the outbreak into account, we developed a time-dependent compartmental model to describe the dynamics of disease transmission and casemore »detection and reporting. Model coefficients were parameterized by using the reported cases and following key events and escalated control strategies. Then the model was used to calibrate the complete outbreak data by using the Monte Carlo Markov Chain (MCMC) method. Finally we used the model to estimate asymptomatic and undetected cases and approximate the overall antibody prevalence level. Results We found that the transmission rate between Jan 24 and Feb 1, 2020, was twice as large as that before the lockdown on Jan 23 and 67.6 % (95% CI [0.584,0.759]) of detectable infections occurred during this period. Based on the reported estimates that around 20% of infections were asymptomatic and their transmission ability was about 70% of symptomatic ones, we estimated that there were about 14,448 asymptomatic and undetected cases (95% CI [12,364,23,254]), which yields an estimate of a total of 64,454 infected cases (95% CI [62,370,73,260]), and the overall antibody prevalence level in the population of Wuhan was 0.745% (95% CI [0.693 % ,0.814 % ]) by March 31, 2020. Conclusions We conclude that the control of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan was achieved via the enforcement of a combination of multiple NPIs: the lockdown on Jan 23, the stay-at-home order on Feb 2, the massive isolation of all symptomatic individuals via newly constructed special shelter hospitals on Feb 6, and the large scale screening process on Feb 18. Our results indicate that the population in Wuhan is far away from establishing herd immunity and provide insights for other affected countries and regions in designing control strategies and planing vaccination programs.« less
  3. In the absence of pharmaceutical interventions to curb the spread of COVID-19, countries relied on a number of nonpharmaceutical interventions to fight the first wave of the pandemic. The most prevalent one has been stay-at-home orders, whose the goal is to limit the physical contact between people, which consequently will reduce the number of secondary infections generated. In this work, we use a detailed set of mobility data to evaluate the impact that these interventions had on alleviating the spread of the virus in the US as measured through the COVID-19-related deaths. To establish this impact, we use the notionmore »of Granger causality between two time-series. We show that there is a unidirectional Granger causality, from the median percentage of time spent daily at home to the daily number of COVID-19-related deaths with a lag of 2 weeks. We further analyze the mobility patterns at the census block level to identify which parts of the population might encounter difficulties in adhering and complying with social distancing measures. This information is important, since it can consequently drive interventions that aim at helping these parts of the population.« less
  4. SARS-CoV-2 is an international public health emergency; high transmissibility and morbidity and mortality can result in the virus overwhelming health systems. Combinations of social distancing, and test, trace, and isolate strategies can reduce the number of new infections per infected individual below 1, thus driving declines in case numbers, but may be both challenging and costly. These interventions must also be maintained until development and (now likely) mass deployment of a vaccine (or therapeutics), since otherwise, many susceptible individuals are still at risk of infection. We use a simple analytical model to explore how low levels of infection, combined withmore »vaccination, determine the trajectory to community immunity. Understanding the repercussions of the biological characteristics of the viral life cycle in this scenario is of considerable importance. We provide a simple description of this process by modelling the scenario where the effective reproduction number R eff is maintained at 1. Since the additional complexity imposed by the strength and duration of transmission-blocking immunity is not yet clear, we use our framework to probe the impact of these uncertainties. Through intuitive analytical relations, we explore how the necessary magnitude of vaccination rates and mitigation efforts depends crucially on the durations of natural and vaccinal immunity. We also show that our framework can encompass seasonality or preexisting immunity due to epidemic dynamics prior to strong mitigation measures. Taken together, our simple conceptual model illustrates the importance of individual and vaccinal immunity for community immunity, and that the quantification of individuals immunized against SARS-CoV-2 is paramount.« less
  5. Abstract We use COVID-19 case and mortality data from 1 February 2020 to 21 September 2020 and a deterministic SEIR (susceptible, exposed, infectious and recovered) compartmental framework to model possible trajectories of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections and the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions in the United States at the state level from 22 September 2020 through 28 February 2021. Using this SEIR model, and projections of critical driving covariates (pneumonia seasonality, mobility, testing rates and mask use per capita), we assessed scenarios of social distancing mandates and levels of mask use. Projections of current non-pharmaceutical intervention strategiesmore »by state—with social distancing mandates reinstated when a threshold of 8 deaths per million population is exceeded (reference scenario)—suggest that, cumulatively, 511,373 (469,578–578,347) lives could be lost to COVID-19 across the United States by 28 February 2021. We find that achieving universal mask use (95% mask use in public) could be sufficient to ameliorate the worst effects of epidemic resurgences in many states. Universal mask use could save an additional 129,574 (85,284–170,867) lives from September 22, 2020 through the end of February 2021, or an additional 95,814 (60,731–133,077) lives assuming a lesser adoption of mask wearing (85%), when compared to the reference scenario.« less