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Effects of weather-related social distancing on city-scale transmission of respiratory viruses

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Unusually high snowfall in western Washington State in February 2019 led to widespread school and workplace closures. We assessed the impact of social distancing caused by this extreme weather event on the transmission of respiratory viruses. METHODS: Residual specimens from patients evaluated for acute respiratory illness at hospitals in the Seattle metropolitan area were screened for a panel of respiratory viruses. Transmission models were fit to each virus, with disruption of contact rates and care-seeking informed by data on local traffic volumes and hospital admissions. RESULTS: Disruption in contact patterns reduced effective contact rates during the intervention period by 16% to 95%, and cumulative disease incidence through the remainder of the season by 3% to 9%. Incidence reductions were greatest for viruses that were peaking when the disruption occurred and least for viruses in early epidemic phase. CONCLUSION: High-intensity, short-duration social distancing measures may substantially reduce total incidence in a respiratory virus epidemic if implemented near the epidemic peak. ### Competing Interest Statement Michael L. Jackson has received grant funding from Sanofi Pasteur, unrelated to the present work. Janet A. Englund is a consultant for Sanofi Pasteur and Meissa Vaccines, Inc., and receives research support from GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and Novavax. Helen Chu is a consultant for Merck and GlaxoSmithKline. Gregory R. Hart, Denise J. McCulloch, Amanda Adler, Elisabeth Brandstetter, Kairsten Fay, Peter Han, Kirsten Lacombe, Jover Lee, Thomas Sibley, Deborah A. Nickerson, Mark J. Rieder, Lea M. Starita, Amanda Adler, Trevor Bedford, and Michael Famulare declare no competing interests. ### Funding Statement The Seattle Flu Study is funded through the Brotman Baty Institute. The funder was not involved in the design of the study, does not have any ownership over the management and conduct of the study, the data, or the rights to publish. ### Author Declarations All relevant ethical guidelines have been followed; any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained and details of the IRB/oversight body are included in the manuscript. Yes All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived. Yes I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as ClinicalTrials.gov. I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance). Yes I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable. Yes Data is available from the corresponding author upon request.

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Citation:

Jackson Michael L, Hart Gregory R, McCulloch Denise J, Adler Amanda, Brandstetter Elisabeth, Fay Kairsten, Han Peter, Lacombe Kirsten, Lee Jover, Sibley Thomas, Nickerson Deborah A, Rieder Mark, Starita Lea, Englund Janet A, Bedford Trevor, Chu Helen, Famulare Michael, Investigators the Seattle Flu Study. (2020). Effects of weather-related social distancing on city-scale transmission of respiratory viruses. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press