Model-Estimated Association Between Simulated US Elementary School–Related SARS-CoV-2 Transmission, Mitigation Interventions, and Vaccine Coverage Across Local Incidence Levels

John Giardina, Alyssa Bilinski, Meagan C. Fitzpatrick, Emily A. Kendall, Benjamin P. Linas, Joshua Salomon, Andrea L. Ciaranello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


IMPORTANCE With recent surges in COVID-19 incidence and vaccine authorization for children aged 5 to 11 years, elementary schools face decisions about requirements for masking and other mitigation measures. These decisions require explicit determination of community objectives (eg, acceptable risk level for in-school SARS-CoV-2 transmission) and quantitative estimates of the consequences of changing mitigation measures. OBJECTIVE To estimate the association between adding or removing in-school mitigation measures (eg, masks) and COVID-19 outcomes within an elementary school community at varying student vaccination and local incidence rates. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This decision analytic model used an agent-based model to simulate SARS-CoV-2 transmission within a school community, with a simulated population of students, teachers and staff, and their household members (ie, immediate school community). Transmission was evaluated for a range of observed local COVID-19 incidence (0-50 cases per 100 000 residents per day, assuming 33% of all infections detected). The population used in the model reflected the mean size of a US elementary school, including 638 students and 60 educators and staff members in 6 grades with 5 classes per grade. EXPOSURES Variant infectiousness (representing wild-type virus, Alpha variant, and Delta variant), mitigation effectiveness (0%-100% reduction in the in-school secondary attack rate, representing increasingly intensive combinations of mitigations including masking and ventilation), and student vaccination levels were varied. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The main outcomes were (1) probability of at least 1 in-school transmission per month and (2) mean increase in total infections per month among the immediate school community associated with a reduction in mitigation; multiple decision thresholds were estimated for objectives associated with each outcome. Sensitivity analyses on adult vaccination uptake, vaccination effectiveness, and testing approaches (for selected scenarios) were conducted. RESULTS With student vaccination coverage of 70% or less and moderate assumptions about mitigation effectiveness (eg, masking), mitigation could only be reduced when local case incidence was 14 or fewer cases per 100 000 residents per day to keep the mean additional cases associated with reducing mitigation to 5 or fewer cases per month. To keep the probability of any in-school transmission to less than 50% per month, the local case incidence would have to be 4 or fewer cases per 100 000 residents per day. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE In this study, in-school mitigation measures (eg, masks) and student vaccinations were associated with substantial reductions in transmissions and infections, but the level of reduction varied across local incidence. These findings underscore the potential role for responsive plans that deploy mitigation strategies based on local COVID-19 incidence, vaccine uptake, and explicit consideration of community objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2147827
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 14 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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