School closure at the outset of epidemic outbreaks has been recommended as one of the best ways to protect children and prevent amplifying the outbreak by gathering susceptible individuals, with relatively poor hygiene, into close contact, and then sending them back out to mix with society at large. However, school closure is not without its own, potentially critical, impact on the function of society. Outbreak-related workforce depletion is already another major concern of pandemic preparedness planners, and caring for children during the day may drastically contribute to adult absenteeism from work. We present a series of computational models to examine whether alternative in-school strategies could provide some measure of infection control without producing the same societal burden in finding alternative childcare. These investigations lead to the conclusion that some non-closure options may provide the best societal protection, finding an appropriate balance between preventing further infection and compromising general societal function.
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Vol. 45 • No. 5