Colleges can prevent 96 percent of COVID-19 infections with common measures, study finds

The mixed effectiveness of three COVID-prevention methods on school campuses — mask-wearing, social distancing, and routine testing — are as efficient in stopping coronavirus infections because the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines authorised by the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration (FDA), based on a brand new examine co-authored by a Case Western Reserve College researcher.

The analysis, printed in Annals of Inside Medication, has instant significance as school semesters are poised to begin once more — and because the distribution of authorised vaccines lags behind objectives.

The examine discovered {that a} mixture of simply two frequent measures — distancing and obligatory masks — prevents 87% of campus COVID-19 infections and prices solely $170 per an infection prevented.

Including routine lab-based testing to the combo would forestall 92% to 96% of COVID infections. Nonetheless, the fee per an infection prevented will increase considerably, to $2,000 to $17,000 every, relying on check frequency.

Because the an infection price continues to rise throughout the winter, the findings are particularly significant for establishments of upper studying aiming to strike a stability between in-person and distant instruction, whereas managing prices to advertise security and scale back transmissions.

“Whereas some measures are extremely efficient, implementing them is fully as much as every school’s monetary state of affairs, which can have already grow to be strained due to the pandemic,” mentioned Pooyan Kazemian, co-senior writer of the examine and an assistant professor of operations on the Weatherhead College of Administration at Case Western Reserve.

“It’s clear that two frequent non-medical methods are very efficient and cheap — and permit for some in-person instruction,” mentioned Kazemian. “Whereas it is true routine testing of the asymptomatic helps catch some infections early and scale back transmissions, additionally they pose the best monetary and operational burden, even when carried out each 14 days.”

Among the many examine’s different findings:

  • About three of each 4 college students — and almost one in six college — would grow to be contaminated over the semester within the absence of all mitigation efforts.
  • Minimal social distancing insurance policies would solely scale back infections by 16% in college students.
  • Whereas closing the campus and switching to online-only training would cut back infections by 63% amongst college students, it will be much less efficient than opening the campus and implementing a mask-wearing and social distancing coverage, which would cut back infections by 87% amongst college students.

The examine

Researchers examined 24 combos of 4 frequent preventive methods — social distancing, mask-wearing, testing and isolation — and calculated their effectiveness and value per an infection prevented.

The crew took into consideration interactions between three teams: college students, college, and the encompassing group (together with employees), and used a pc simulation mannequin Kazemian and his colleagues developed — referred to as Scientific and Financial Evaluation of COVID-19 interventions, or CEACOV — that simulated a semester of a mid-sized school (5,000 college students and 1,000 college).

“Whereas states have began providing COVID-19 vaccine to healthcare staff, first responders, and long-term care services, it’s unlikely that the majority college students and college college and employees can be provided a vaccine till late within the spring semester,” mentioned Kazemian. “Subsequently, dedication to mask-wearing and intensive social distancing, together with canceling massive gatherings and lowering class sizes with a hybrid training system, stays the first technique for minimizing infections and holding the campus open throughout the spring semester.”

The examine was performed with contributors from Brigham and Girls’s Hospital, Harvard Medical College, Boston College College of Public Well being, Massachusetts Normal Hospital, and the Harvard T. H. Chan College of Public Well being.


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