Strong impact of closing schools, closing bars and wearing masks during the Covid-19 pandemic: results from a simple and revealing analysis
OPEN medRxiv : the preprint server for health sciences | 8 Oct 2020
P Matzinger and J Skinner
Many complex mathematical and epidemiological methods have been used to model the Covid-19 pandemic. Among other results from these models has been the view that closing schools had little impact on infection rates in several countries1. We took a different approach. Making one assumption, we simply plotted cases, hospitalizations and deaths, on a log2 Y axis and a linear date-based X axis, and analyzed them using segmented regression, a powerful method that has largely been overlooked during this pandemic. Here we show that the data fit straight lines with correlation coefficients ranging from 92% - 99%, and that these lines broke at interesting intervals, revealing that school closings dropped infection rates in half, lockdowns dropped the rates 3 to 4 fold, and other actions (such as closing bars and mandating masks) brought the rates even further down. Hospitalizations and deaths paralleled cases, with lags of three to ten days. The graphs, which are easy to read, reveal changes in infection rates that are not obvious using other graphing methods, and have several implications for modeling and policy development during this and future pandemics. Overall, other than full lockdowns, three interventions had the most impact: closing schools, closing bars and wearing masks: a message easily understood by the public.
* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com