Rapid Real-time Tracking of Nonpharmaceutical Interventions and Their Association With Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Positivity: The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic Pulse Study

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Oct 5;73(7):e1822-e1829. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1313.


Background: Current mitigation strategies for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) rely on the population-wide adoption of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). Monitoring the adoption of NPIs and their associations with SARS-CoV-2 infection history can provide key information for public health.

Methods: We sampled 1030 individuals in Maryland from 17-28 June 2020 to capture sociodemographically and geographically resolved information about NPI adoption and access to SARS-CoV-2 testing, and examine associations with self-reported SARS-CoV-2 positivity.

Results: Overall, 92% reported traveling for essential services and 66% visited friends/family. Use of public transport was reported by 18%. In total, 68% reported strict social distancing indoors and 53% reported strict masking indoors; indoor social distancing was significantly associated with age, and race/ethnicity and income were associated with masking. Overall, 55 participants (5.3%) self-reported ever testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, with strong dose-response relationships between several forms of movement frequency and SARS-CoV-2 positivity. In a multivariable analysis, a history of SARS-CoV-2 infection was negatively associated with strict social distancing (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] for outdoor social distancing, 0.10; 95% confidence interval, .03-.33). Only public transport use (aOR for >7 times vs never, 4.3) and visiting a place of worship (aOR for ≥3 times vs never, 16.0) remained significantly associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection after adjusting for strict social distancing and demographics.

Conclusions: These results support public health messaging that strict social distancing during most activities can reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Additional considerations are needed for indoor activities with large numbers of persons (places of worship and public transportation), where even NPIs may not be possible or sufficient.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; nonpharmaceutical interventions; social distancing; testing; transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Physical Distancing
  • SARS-CoV-2*