State-level impact of social distancing and testing on COVID-19 in the United States



Social distancing measures have been implemented in the United States (US) since March 2020, to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. However, by mid-May most states began relaxing these measures to support the resumption of economic activity, even as disease incidence continued to increase in many states. To evaluate the impact of relaxing social distancing restrictions on COVID-19 dynamics and control in the US, we developed a transmission dynamic model and calibrated it to US state-level COVID-19 cases and deaths from March to June 20th, 2020, using Bayesian methods. We used this model to evaluate the impact of reopening, social distancing, testing, contact tracing, and case isolation on the COVID-19 epidemic in each state. We found that using stay-at-home orders, most states were able to curtail their COVID-19 epidemic curve by reducing and achieving an effective reproductive number below 1. But by June 20th, 2020, only 19 states and the District of Columbia were on track to curtail their epidemic curve with a 75% confidence, at current levels of reopening. Of the remaining 31 states, 24 may have to double their current testing and/or contact tracing rate to curtail their epidemic curve, and seven need to further restrict social contact by 25% in addition to doubling their testing and contact tracing rates.  When social distancing restrictions are being eased, greater state-level testing and contact tracing capacity remains paramount for mitigating the risk of large-scale increases in cases and deaths.

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