Mitigating outbreaks in congregate settings by decreasing the size of the susceptible population

Link to paper

Seth Blumberg, Phoebe Lu, Christopher M. Hoover, James O. Lloyd-Smith, Ada T. Kwan, David Sears, Stefano M. Bertozzi, Lee Worden


While many transmission models have been developed for community spread of respiratory pathogens, less attention has been given to modeling the interdependence of disease introduction and spread seen in congregate settings, such as prisons or nursing homes. As demonstrated by the explosive outbreaks of COVID-19 seen in congregate settings, the need for effective outbreak prevention and mitigation strategies for these settings is critical. Here we consider how interventions that decrease the size of the susceptible populations, such as vaccination or depopulation, impact the expected number of infections due to outbreaks. Introduction of disease into the resident population from the community is modeled as a branching process, while spread between residents is modeled via a compartmental model. Control is modeled as a proportional decrease in both the number of susceptible residents and the reproduction number. We find that vaccination or depopulation can have a greater than linear effect on anticipated infections. For example, assuming a reproduction number of 3.0 for density-dependent COVID-19 transmission, we find that reducing the size of the susceptible population by 20% reduced overall disease burden by 47%. We highlight the California state prison system as an example for how these findings provide a quantitative framework for implementing infection control in congregate settings. Additional applications of our modeling framework include optimizing the distribution of residents into independent residential units, and comparison of preemptive versus reactive vaccination strategies.