Preventing COVID-19 spread in closed facilities by regular testing of employees-An efficient intervention in long-term care facilities and prisons?
BACKGROUND: Different levels of control measures were introduced to contain the global COVID-19 pandemic, many of which have been controversial, particularly the comprehensive use of diagnostic tests. Regular testing of high-risk individuals (pre-existing conditions, older than 60 years of age) has been suggested by public health authorities. The WHO suggested the use of routine screening of residents, employees, and visitors of long-term care facilities (LTCF) to protect the resident risk group. Similar suggestions have been made by the WHO for other closed facilities including incarceration facilities (e.g., prisons or jails), wherein parts of the U.S., accelerated release of approved inmates is taken as a measure to mitigate COVID-19. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Here, the simulation model underlying the pandemic preparedness tool CovidSim 1.1 (http://covidsim.eu/) is extended to investigate the effect of regularly testing of employees to protect immobile resident risk groups in closed facilities. The reduction in the number of infections and deaths within the risk group is investigated. Our simulations are adjusted to reflect the situation of LTCFs in Germany, and incarceration facilities in the U.S. COVID-19 spreads in closed facilities due to contact with infected employees even under strict confinement of visitors in a pandemic scenario without targeted protective measures. Testing is only effective in conjunction with targeted contact reduction between the closed facility and the outside world-and will be most inefficient under strategies aiming for herd immunity. The frequency of testing, the quality of tests, and the waiting time for obtaining test results have noticeable effects. The exact reduction in the number of cases depends on disease prevalence in the population and the levels of contact reductions. Testing every 5 days with a good quality test and a processing time of 24 hours can lead up to a 40% reduction in the number of infections. However, the effects of testing vary substantially among types of closed facilities and can even be counterproductive in U.S. IFs. CONCLUSIONS: The introduction of COVID-19 in closed facilities is unavoidable without a thorough screening of persons that can introduce the disease into the facility. Regular testing of employees in closed facilities can contribute to reducing the number of infections there, but is only meaningful as an accompanying measure, whose economic benefit needs to be assessed carefully.