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YSPH Biostatistics Seminar: "Reopening College Campuses and Easing Global Travel Restrictions: A Network Perspective"

Reopening College Campuses and Easing Global Travel Restrictions: A Network Perspective

JP Onnela, PhD

Associate Professor

Department of Biostatistics

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

12:00 Noon Eastern time, Tuesday, March 15, 2022


During the COVID-19 pandemic, universities have examined and implemented different campus reopening strategies, attempting to achieve a balance between various academic and public health goals. At the same time, many countries have implemented international airline travel restrictions that aim to contain viral spread while still allowing necessary cross-border travel for social and economic reasons. We used temporal network data to investigate strategies for college campus reopening and easing of global travel restrictions. First, while many studies have examined SARS-CoV-2 models to examine campus reopening strategies using a variety of modeling techniques, few if any have used empirical individual-level data on contact patterns. We used an empirical proximity network of college freshmen, ascertained using smartphone Bluetooth, to simulate the spread of the virus, and investigated the role of immunization, testing, isolation, mask wearing, and social distancing in the presence of implementation challenges and imperfect compliance. We find that on a college campus with high vaccination rates and symptomatic testing, three vaccine doses with no scheduled testing performs better than two vaccine doses with everyone scheduled to be tested every three days. Second, we studied the relative effectiveness of different airline travel regulation policies for controlling the pandemic. We developed a flexible network meta-population model to compare the effectiveness of international travel policies, with a focus on evaluating the benefit of policy coordination. We find that with better coordinated travel policies, compared to recent historical rates, substantially higher levels of international travel are possible and safe.


  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

    JP Onnela
    Associate Professor





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