Estimation of effects of contact tracing and mask adoption on COVID-19 transmission in San Francisco: a modeling study.


The current COVID-19 pandemic has spurred concern about what interventions may be effective at reducing transmission. The city and county of San Francisco imposed a shelter-in-place order in March 2020, followed by use of a contact tracing program and a policy requiring use of cloth face masks. We used statistical estimation and simulation to estimate the effectiveness of these interventions in San Francisco. We estimated that self-isolation and other practices beginning at the time of San Francisco's shelter-in-place order reduced the effective reproduction number of COVID-19 by 35.4% (95% CI, -20.1%--81.4%). We estimated the effect of contact tracing on the effective reproduction number to be a reduction of approximately 44% times the fraction of cases that are detected, which may be modest if the detection rate is low. We estimated the impact of cloth mask adoption on reproduction number to be approximately 8.6%, and note that the benefit of mask adoption may be substantially greater for essential workers and other vulnerable populations, residents return to circulating outside the home more often. We estimated the effect of those interventions on incidence by simulating counterfactual scenarios in which contact tracing was not adopted, cloth masks were not adopted, and neither contact tracing nor cloth masks was adopted, and found increases in case counts that were modest, but relatively larger than the effects on reproduction numbers. These estimates and model results suggest that testing coverage and timing of testing and contact tracing may be important, and that modest effects on reproduction numbers can nonetheless cause substantial effects on case counts over time.

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