Designing school reopening in the COVID-19 pre-vaccination period in Bogotá, Colombia: A modeling study
España G., Cucunubá ZM., Diaz H., Cavany S., Castañeda N., Rodriguez L.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people around the world. In Colombia, 1.65 million cases and 43,495 deaths were reported in 2020. Schools were closed in many places around the world to slow down the spread of SARS-CoV-2. In Bogotá, Colombia, most of the public schools were closed from March 2020 until the end of the year. School closures can exacerbate poverty, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. To reconcile these two priorities in health and fighting poverty, we estimated the impact of school reopening for in-person instruction in 2021. We used an agent-based model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission calibrated to the daily number of deaths. The model includes schools that represent private and public schools in terms of age, enrollment, location, and size. We simulated school reopening at different capacities, assuming a high level of face-mask use, and evaluated the impact on the number of deaths in the city. We also evaluated the impact of reopening schools based on grade and multidimensional poverty index. We found that school at 35% capacity, assuming face-mask adherence at 75% in>8 years of age, had a small impact on the number of deaths reported in the city during a third wave. The increase in deaths was smallest when only pre-kinder was opened, and largest when secondary school was opened. At larger capacities, the impact on the number of deaths of opening pre-kinder was below 10%. In contrast, reopening other grades above 50% capacity substantially increased the number of deaths. Reopening schools based on their multidimensional poverty index resulted in a similar impact, irrespective of the level of poverty of the schools that were reopened. The impact of schools reopening was lower for pre-kinder grades and the magnitude of additional deaths associated with school reopening can be minimized by adjusting capacity in older grades.