College campuses and COVID-19 mitigation: clinical and economic value

Abstract

Background: Decisions around US college and university operations will affect millions of students and faculty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We examined the clinical and economic value of different COVID-19 mitigation strategies on college campuses.

Methods: We used the Clinical and Economic Analysis of COVID-19 interventions (CEACOV) model, a dynamic microsimulation that tracks infections accrued by students and faculty, accounting for community transmissions. Outcomes include infections, $/infection-prevented, and $/quality-adjusted-life-year ($/QALY). Strategies included extensive social distancing (ESD), masks, and routine laboratory tests (RLT). We report results per 5,000 students (1,000 faculty) over one semester (105 days).

Results: Mitigation strategies reduced COVID-19 cases among students (faculty) from 3,746 (164) with no mitigation to 493 (28) with ESD and masks, and further to 151 (25) adding RLTq3 among asymptomatic students and faculty. ESD with masks cost $168/infection-prevented ($49,200/QALY) compared to masks alone. Adding RLTq3 ($10/test) cost $8,300/infection-prevented ($2,804,600/QALY). If tests cost $1, RLTq3 led to a favorable cost of $275/infection-prevented ($52,200/QALY). No strategies without masks were cost-effective.

Conclusion: Extensive social distancing with mandatory mask-wearing could prevent 87% of COVID-19 cases on college campuses and be very cost-effective. Routine laboratory testing would prevent 96% of infections and require low cost tests to be economically attractive.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

The work was funded by NIAID R37AI058736-16S1.

Author Declarations

I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.

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The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

Partners IRB

All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.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).

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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 Availability

All data are reported in the manuscript and associated supplementary materials.

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