Age groups that sustain resurging COVID-19 epidemics in the United States
Valerie C. Bradley,
Thomas A Mellan,
H Juliette T Unwin,
Michaela A. C. Vollmer,
Neil M. Ferguson,
Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team
Posted 22 Sep 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.18.20197376
Posted 22 Sep 2020
Following initial declines, in mid 2020, a resurgence in transmission of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has occurred in the United States and parts of Europe. Despite the wide implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions, it is still not known how they are impacted by changing contact patterns, age and other demographics. As COVID-19 disease control becomes more localised, understanding the age demographics driving transmission and how these impacts the loosening of interventions such as school reopening is crucial. Considering dynamics for the United States, we analyse aggregated, age-specific mobility trends from more than 10 million individuals and link these mechanistically to age-specific COVID-19 mortality data. In contrast to previous approaches, we link mobility to mortality via age-specific contact patterns and use this rich relationship to reconstruct accurate transmission dynamics. Contrary to anecdotal evidence, we find little support for age-shifts in contact and transmission dynamics over time. We estimate that, until August, 63.4% [60.9%-65.5%] of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States originated from adults aged 20-49, while 1.2% [0.8%-1.8%] originated from children aged 0- 9. In areas with continued, community-wide transmission, our transmission model predicts that re-opening kindergartens and elementary schools could facilitate spread and lead to additional COVID-19 attributable deaths over a 90-day period. These findings indicate that targeting interventions to adults aged 20-49 are an important consideration in halting resurgent epidemics and preventing COVID-19-attributable deaths when kindergartens and elementary schools reopen.
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