A model-based evaluation of the efficacy of COVID-19 social distancing, testing and hospital triage policies

PLoS Comput Biol. 2020 Oct 15;16(10):e1008388. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008388. eCollection 2020 Oct.


A stochastic compartmental network model of SARS-CoV-2 spread explores the simultaneous effects of policy choices in three domains: social distancing, hospital triaging, and testing. Considering policy domains together provides insight into how different policy decisions interact. The model incorporates important characteristics of COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, such as heterogeneous risk factors and asymptomatic transmission, and enables a reliable qualitative comparison of policy choices despite the current uncertainty in key virus and disease parameters. Results suggest possible refinements to current policies, including emphasizing the need to reduce random encounters more than personal contacts, and testing low-risk symptomatic individuals before high-risk symptomatic individuals. The strength of social distancing of symptomatic individuals affects the degree to which asymptomatic cases drive the epidemic as well as the level of population-wide contact reduction needed to keep hospitals below capacity. The relative importance of testing and triaging also depends on the overall level of social distancing.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods*
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / standards
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hospitals / standards
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission*
  • Policy
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Isolation*

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.