COVID-19 reopening strategies at the county level in the face of uncertainty: Multiple Models for Outbreak Decision Support
Policymakers make decisions about COVID-19 management in the face of considerable uncertainty. We convened multiple modeling teams to evaluate reopening strategies for a mid-sized county in the United States, in a novel process designed to fully express scientific uncertainty while reducing linguistic uncertainty and cognitive biases. For the scenarios considered, the consensus from 17 distinct models was that a second outbreak will occur within 6 months of reopening, unless schools and non-essential workplaces remain closed. Up to half the population could be infected with full workplace reopening; non-essential business closures reduced median cumulative infections by 82%. Intermediate reopening interventions identified no win-win situations; there was a trade-off between public health outcomes and duration of workplace closures. Aggregate results captured twice the uncertainty of individual models, providing a more complete expression of risk for decision-making purposes.