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COVID-19: Study Finds Most Localities Do Not Have Enough Compliance to Stop Spread

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Anita M. McGahan PhD, MBA University Professor Professor of Strategic Management Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy George E. Connell Chair in Organizations & Society Rotman School of Management University of Toronto

Dr. McGahan

Anita M. McGahan PhD, MBA
University Professor
Professor of Strategic Management
Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy
George E. Connell Chair in Organizations & Society
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:    The article by Phebo Wibbens, Wesley Wu-Yi Koo, and me that came out today in PLOS ONE at https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0244177 investigates how effective different policies are in accomplishing COVID control across 40 different countries and U.S. states.   The policies that we consider are standardized in the Oxford COVID policy database, and include, for example, school closings, workplace closings, international travel controls, restrictions on gatherings, etc.  Each of these policies can be implemented at different levels of intensity.   The analysis looks at the marginal impact of each of these policies in the presence of the others.  We find that, in 90% of jurisdictions, compliance is not high enough to make a core group of socially tolerable policies sufficient to drive COVID growth below zero.   In these places, one or more tougher-to-tolerate policies must be implemented on top of the core group to get COVID growth to stop.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response:   Only 10% of jurisdictions have high enough compliance to stop COVID growth with a core group of socially tolerable policies, which are the cancellation of public events, restriction of gatherings to fewer than 100 people, recommendations to stay at home, recommended restrictions on internal movement, implementation of a partial international travel ban, and coordination of information campaigns.   What makes compliance hard is both demographic and behavioral features of a country or U.S. state such as the level of urbanization, for example.   In the 90% of jurisdictions without the most rigorous compliance, one or more of a set of high-impact policies that are harder-to-tolerate socially must be implemented in addition to the core group to get COVID growth below zero.   These include partial or full workplace closings for all but essential workers, stay-at-home requirements, and targeted school closures. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response:   We conclude the paper by recommending future research on understanding what drives compliance, and on what causes variation across jurisdictions in the effectiveness of the different COVID control policies.  For example, we need to more research on how to design urban systems like subways and schools and workplaces to control the transmission of infection generally.  A deeper understanding of how people respond over time to various restrictions would support policy-makers in making tough decisions about which to implement when. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response:  The highest impact of the tough-to-tolerate polices are restrictions on the activity of adults, i.e., partial and full workplace closings and stay-at-home requirements.   The next in line after those restrictions are targeted school closures.   Because school closures are so consequential both for childhood development and for parents’ ability to work, I hope we can avoid them.    It’s truly critical that we strive for compliance with both the core policies and, if we can’t avoid them, the tough-to-tolerate workplace closings.


Which COVID policies are most effective? A Bayesian analysis of COVID-19 by jurisdiction
Phebo Wibbens, Wesley Wu-Yi Koo, Anita M. McGahan
medRxiv 2020.12.01.20241695; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.01.20241695 

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Last Updated on December 30, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD