A modeling study to inform screening and testing interventions for the control of SARS-CoV-2 on university campuses.


University administrators face decisions about how to safely return and maintain students, staff and faculty on campus throughout the 2020-21 school year. We developed a susceptible-exposed-infectious-recovered (SEIR) deterministic compartmental transmission model of SARS-CoV-2 among university students, staff, and faculty. Our goals were to inform planning at our own university, Emory University, a medium-sized university with around 15,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff, and to provide a flexible modeling framework to inform the planning efforts at similar academic institutions. Control strategies of isolation and quarantine are initiated by screening (regardless of symptoms) or testing (of symptomatic individuals). We explored a range of screening and testing frequencies and performed a probabilistic sensitivity analysis. We found that among students, monthly and weekly screening can reduce cumulative incidence by 59% and 87%, respectively, while testing with a 2-, 4- and 7-day delay between onset of infectiousness and testing results in an 84%, 74% and 55% reduction in cumulative incidence. Smaller reductions were observed among staff and faculty. Community-introduction of SARS-CoV-2 onto campus may be controlled with testing, isolation, contract tracing and quarantine. Screening would need to be performed at least weekly to have substantial reductions beyond disease surveillance. This model can also inform resource requirements of diagnostic capacity and isolation/quarantine facilities associated with different strategies.

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