Chopping the tail: how preventing superspreading can help to maintain COVID-19 control.


dropped below 1 rapidly following social distancing orders in mid-March, 2020 and remained there into June in Santa Clara County and Seattle, but climbed above 1 in late May in Los Angeles, Miami, and Atlanta, and has trended upward in all locations since April. With the fitted model, we ask: how does truncating the tail of the individual-level transmission rate distribution affect epidemic dynamics and control? We find interventions that truncate the transmission rate distribution while partially relaxing social distancing are broadly effective, with impacts on epidemic growth on par with the strongest population-wide social distancing observed in April, 2020. Given that social distancing interventions will be needed to maintain epidemic control until a vaccine becomes widely available, "chopping off the tail" to reduce the probability of superspreading events presents a promising option to alleviate the need for extreme general social distancing.

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