Intense nonpharmaceutical interventions were put in place in China to stop transmission of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As transmission intensifies in other countries, the interplay between age, contact patterns, social distancing, susceptibility to infection, and COVID-19 dynamics remains unclear. To answer these questions, we analyze contact survey data for Wuhan and Shanghai before and during the outbreak and contact-tracing information from Hunan province. Daily contacts were reduced seven- to eightfold during the COVID-19 social distancing period, with most interactions restricted to the household. We find that children 0 to 14 years of age are less susceptible to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection than adults 15 to 64 years of age (odds ratio 0.34, 95% confidence interval 0.24 to 0.49), whereas individuals more than 65 years of age are more susceptible to infection (odds ratio 1.47, 95% confidence interval 1.12 to 1.92). Based on these data, we built a transmission model to study the impact of social distancing and school closure on transmission. We find that social distancing alone, as implemented in China during the outbreak, is sufficient to control COVID-19. Although proactive school closures cannot interrupt transmission on their own, they can reduce peak incidence by 40 to 60% and delay the epidemic.
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