Nationally Representative Social Contact Patterns among U.S. Adults, August 2020-April 2021
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S prompted abrupt and dramatic changes to social contact patterns. Monitoring changing social behavior is essential to provide reliable input data for mechanistic models of infectious disease, which have been increasingly used to support public health policy to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. While some studies have reported on changing contact patterns throughout the pandemic, few have reported differences in contact patterns among key demographic groups and none have reported nationally representative estimates. We conducted a national probability survey of US households and collected information on social contact patterns during two time periods: August-December 2020 (before widespread vaccine availability) and March-April 2021 (during national vaccine rollout). Overall, contact rates in Spring 2021 were similar to those in Fall 2020, with most contacts reported at work. Persons identifying as non-White, non-Black, non-Asian, and non-Hispanic reported high numbers of contacts relative to other racial and ethnic groups. Contact rates were highest in those reporting occupations in retail, hospitality and food service, and transportation. Those testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies reported a higher number of daily contacts than those who were seronegative. Our findings provide evidence for differences in social behavior among demographic groups, highlighting the profound disparities that have become the hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic.