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Post-lockdown changes of age-specific susceptibility and its correlation with adherence to social distancing measures.

Abstract

Social distancing measures are effective in reducing overall community transmission but much remains unknown about how they have impacted finer-scale dynamics. In particular, much is unknown about how changes of contact patterns and other behaviors including adherence to social distancing, induced by these measures, may have impacted finer-scale transmission dynamics among different age groups. In this paper, we build a stochastic age-specific transmission model to systematically characterize the degree and variation of age-specific transmission dynamics, before and after lifting the lockdown in Georgia, USA. We perform Bayesian (missing-)data-augmentation model inference, leveraging reported age-specific case, seroprevalence and mortality data. We estimate that overall population-level transmissibility was reduced to 41.2% with 95% CI [39%, 43.8%] of the pre-lockdown level in about a week of the announcement of the shelter-in-place order. Although it subsequently increased after the lockdown was lifted, it only bounced back to 62% [58%, 67.2%] of the pre-lockdown level after about a month. We also find that during the lockdown susceptibility to infection increases with age. Specifically, relative to the oldest age group (> 65+), susceptibility for the youngest age group (0-17 years) is 0.13 [0.09, 0.18], and it increases to 0.53 [0.49, 0.59] for 18-44 and 0.75 [0.68, 0.82] for 45-64. More importantly, our results reveal clear changes of age-specific susceptibility (defined as average risk of getting infected during an infectious contact incorporating age-dependent behavioral factors) after the lockdown was lifted, with a trend largely consistent with reported age-specific adherence levels to social distancing and preventive measures. Specifically, the older groups (> 45) (with the highest levels of adherence) appear to have the most significant reductions of susceptibility (e.g., post-lockdown susceptibility reduced to 31.6% [29.3%, 34%] of the estimate before lifting the lockdown for the 6+ group). Finally, we find heterogeneity in case reporting among different age groups, with the lowest rate occurring among the 0-17 group (9.7% [6.4%, 19%]). Our results provide a more fundamental understanding of the impacts of stringent lockdown measures, and finer evidence that other social distancing and preventive measures may be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission. These results may be exploited to guide more effective implementations of these measures in many current settings (with low vaccination rate globally and emerging variants) and in future potential outbreaks of novel pathogens.

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