Impact of changes in protective behaviors and out-of-household activities by age on COVID-19 transmission and hospitalization in Chicago, Illinois

Ann Epidemiol. 2022 Dec:76:165-173. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2022.06.005. Epub 2022 Jun 18.


Purpose: Even with an efficacious vaccine, protective behaviors (social distancing, masking) are essential for preventing COVID-19 transmission and could become even more important if current or future variants evade immunity from vaccines or prior infection.

Methods: We created an agent-based model representing the Chicago population and conducted experiments to determine the effects of varying adult out-of-household activities (OOHA), school reopening, and protective behaviors across age groups on COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations.

Results: From September-November 2020, decreasing adult protective behaviors and increasing adult OOHA both substantially impacted COVID-19 outcomes; school reopening had relatively little impact when adult protective behaviors and OOHA were maintained. As of November 1, 2020, a 50% reduction in young adult (age 18-40) protective behaviors resulted in increased latent infection prevalence per 100,000 from 15.93 (IQR 6.18, 36.23) to 40.06 (IQR 14.65, 85.21) and 19.87 (IQR 6.83, 46.83) to 47.74 (IQR 18.89, 118.77) with 15% and 45% school reopening. Increasing adult (age ≥18) OOHA from 65% to 80% of prepandemic levels resulted in increased latent infection prevalence per 100,000 from 35.18 (IQR 13.59, 75.00) to 69.84 (IQR 33.27, 145.89) and 38.17 (IQR 15.84, 91.16) to 80.02 (IQR 30.91, 186.63) with 15% and 45% school reopening. Similar patterns were observed for hospitalizations.

Conclusions: In areas without widespread vaccination coverage, interventions to maintain adherence to protective behaviors, particularly among younger adults and in out-of-household settings, remain a priority for preventing COVID-19 transmission.

Keywords: Age-specific trends; Agent-based modeling; Covid-19; Interventions; Prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Chicago / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization
  • Household Work
  • Humans
  • Latent Infection*
  • Young Adult