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The impact of contact tracing on the spread of COVID-19: an egocentric agent-based model

Authors
  • Pilny, Andrew1
  • Xiang, Lin2
  • Huber, Corey1
  • Silberman, Will1
  • Goatley-Soan, Sean1
  • 1 Department of Communication, University of Kentucky, Lexington
  • 2 Department of STEM Education, University of Kentucky, Lexington
Type
Published Article
Journal
Connections: The Quarterly Journal
Publisher
Exeley Inc.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
Volume
41
Issue
1
Pages
25–46
Identifiers
DOI: 10.21307/connections-2021.022
Source
Exeley
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Health Care Sciences & Services
License
Green

Abstract

At its core, contact tracing is a form of egocentric network analysis (ENA). One of the biggest obstacles for ENA is informant accuracy (i.e., amount of true contacts identified), which is even more prominent for interaction-based network ties because they often represent episodic relational events, rather than enduring relational states. This research examines the effect of informant accuracy on the spread of COVID-19 through an egocentric, agent-based model. Overall when the average person transmits COVID-19 to 1.62 other people (i.e., the R 0), they must be, on average, 75% accurate with naming their contacts. In higher transmission contexts (i.e., transmitting to at least two other people), the results show that multi-level tracing (i.e., contact tracing the contacts) is the only viable strategy. Finally, sensitivity analysis shows that the effectiveness of contact tracing is negatively impacted by the timing and overall percent of asymptomatic cases. Overall, the results suggest that if contact tracing is to be effective, it must be fast, accurate, and accompanied by other interventions like mask-wearing to drive down the average R 0.

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