Curbing the COVID-19 pandemic with facility-based isolation of mild cases: a mathematical modeling study

Simiao Chen, Qiushi Chen, Juntao Yang, Lin Lin, Linye Li, Lirui Jiao, Pascal Geldsetzer, Chen Wang, Annelies Wilder-Smith, Till Bärnighausen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: In many countries, patients with mild coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are told to self-isolate at home, but imperfect compliance and shared living space with uninfected people limit the effectiveness of home-based isolation. We examine the impact of facility-based isolation compared to self-isolation at home on the continuing epidemic in the USA. Methods: We developed a compartment model to simulate the dynamic transmission of COVID-19 and calibrated it to key epidemic measures in the USA from March to September 2020. We simulated facility-based isolation strategies with various capacities and starting times under different diagnosis rates. Our primary model outcomes are new infections and deaths over 2 months from October 2020 onwards. In addition to national-level estimations, we explored the effects of facility-based isolation under different epidemic burdens in major US Census Regions. We performed sensitivity analyses by varying key model assumptions and parameters. Results: We find that facility-based isolation with moderate capacity of 5 beds per 10 000 total population could avert 4.17 (95% credible interval 1.65–7.11) million new infections and 16 000 (8000–23 000) deaths in 2 months compared with home-based isolation. These results are equivalent to relative reductions of 57% (44–61%) in new infections and 37% (27–40%) in deaths. Facility-based isolation with high capacity of 10 beds per 10 000 population could achieve reductions of 76% (62–84%) in new infections and 52% (37–64%) in deaths when supported by expanded testing with an additional 20% daily diagnosis rate. Delays in implementation would substantially reduce the impact of facility-based isolation. The effective capacity and the impact of facility-based isolation varied by epidemic stage across regions. Conclusion: Timely facility-based isolation for mild COVID-19 cases could substantially reduce the number of new infections and effectively curb the continuing epidemic in the USA. Local epidemic burdens should determine the scale of facility-based isolation strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbertaaa226
JournalJournal of Travel Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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