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Simulating Preventative Testing of SARS-CoV-2 in Schools: Policy Implications
24 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2020More...
Background: School testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection has become an important policy and planning issue as schools are reopened after the summer season and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Decisions to test or not to test and, if testing, how many tests, how often and for how long, are complex decisions that need to be taken under uncertainty and conflicting pressures from various stakeholders.
Method: We have developed an agent-based model and simulation tool that can be used to analyze the outcomes and effectiveness of different testing strategies and scenarios in schools with various number of classrooms and class sizes. We have applied a modified version of a standard SEIR disease transmission model that includes symptomatic and asymptomatic infectious populations, and that incorporates feasible public health measures. We also incorporated a pre-symptomatic phase for symptomatic cases. Every day, a random number of students in each class are tested. If they tested positive, they are placed in self-isolation at home when the test results are provided. Last but not least, we have included options to allow for full testing or complete self-isolation of a classroom with a positive case.
Finding: We present sample simulation results for parameter values based on schools and disease related information, in the Province of Ontario, Canada. The findings show that testing can be an effective method in controlling the SARS-CoV-2 infection in schools if taken frequently, with expedited test results and self-isolation of infected students at home. Our findings show that while testing cannot eliminate the risk and has its own challenges, it can significantly control outbreaks when combined with other measures, such as masks and other protective measures.
Funding Statement: Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Institute of Health Research, Ontario Research Funds, National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Declaration of Interests: None to declare.
Keywords: COVID-19, Agent-based Modelling, COVID-19 testing, School testing, Disease modelling
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation