• The cost-effectiveness of common strategies for the prevention of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in universities

      Zafari, Zafar; Goldman, Lee; Kovrizhkin, Katia; Muennig, Peter Alexander (Public Library of Science, 2021-09-30)
      Background: Most universities that re-open in the United States (US) for in-person instruction have implemented the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) guidelines. The value of additional interventions to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is unclear. We calculated the cost-effectiveness and cases averted of each intervention in combination with implementing the CDC guidelines. Methods: We built a decision-analytic model to examine the cost-effectiveness of interventions to re-open universities. The interventions included implementing the CDC guidelines alone and in combination with 1) a symptom-checking mobile application, 2) university-provided standardized, high filtration masks, 3) thermal cameras for temperature screening, 4) one-time entry ('gateway') polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, and 5) weekly PCR testing. We also modeled a package of interventions ('package intervention') that combines the CDC guidelines with using the symptom-checking mobile application, standardized masks, gateway PCR testing, and weekly PCR testing. The direct and indirect costs were calculated in 2020 US dollars. We also provided an online interface that allows the user to change model parameters. Results: All interventions averted cases of COVID-19. When the prevalence of actively infectious cases reached 0.1%, providing standardized, high filtration masks saved money and improved health relative to implementing the CDC guidelines alone and in combination with using the symptom-checking mobile application, thermal cameras, and gateway testing. Compared with standardized masks, weekly PCR testing cost $9.27 million (95% Credible Interval [CrI]: cost-saving-$77.36 million)/QALY gained. Compared with weekly PCR testing, the 'package' intervention cost $137,877 (95% CrI: $3,108-$19.11 million)/QALY gained. At both a prevalence of 1% and 2%, the 'package' intervention saved money and improved health compared to all the other interventions. Conclusions: All interventions were effective at averting infection from COVID-19. However, when the prevalence of actively infectious cases in the community was low, only standardized, high filtration masks clearly provided value.