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Preprint Dans Anglais | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21266969


Like other congregate living settings, military basic training has been subject to outbreaks of COVID-19. We sought to identify improved strategies for preventing outbreaks in this setting using an agent-based model of a hypothetical cohort of trainees on a U.S. Army post. Our analysis revealed unique aspects of basic training that require customized approaches to outbreak prevention, which draws attention to the possibility that customized approaches may be necessary in other settings, too. In particular, we showed that introductions by trainers and support staff may be a major vulnerability, given that those individuals remain at risk of community exposure throughout the training period. We also found that increased testing of trainees upon arrival could actually increase the risk of outbreaks, given the potential for false-positive test results to lead to susceptible individuals becoming infected in group isolation and seeding outbreaks in training units upon release. Until an effective transmission-blocking vaccine is adopted at high coverage by individuals involved with basic training, need will persist for non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent outbreaks in military basic training. Ongoing uncertainties about virus variants and breakthrough infections necessitate continued vigilance in this setting, even as vaccination coverage increases. Significance StatementCOVID-19 has presented enormous disruptions to society. Militaries are not immune to these disruptions, with outbreaks in those settings posing threats to national security. We present a simulation model of COVID-19 outbreaks in a U.S. Army basic training setting to inform improved approaches to prevention there. Counterintuitively, we found that outbreak risk is driven more by virus introductions from trainers than the large number of trainees, and that outbreak risk is highly sensitive to false-positive results during entry testing. These findings suggest practical ways to improve prevention of COVID-19 outbreaks in basic training and, as a result, maintain the flow of new soldiers into the military. This work highlights the need for bespoke modeling to inform prevention in diverse institutional settings.

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