Reopening California

Seeking Robust, Non-Dominated COVID-19 Exit Strategies

Published in: PLoS ONE, Volume 16, Issue 10 (2021). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0259166

Posted on on November 05, 2021

by Pedro Nascimento de Lima, Robert J. Lempert, Raffaele Vardavas, Lawrence Baker, Jeanne S. Ringel, Carolyn M. Rutter, Jonathan Ozik, Nicholson Collier

Read More

Access further information on this document at PLoS ONE

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

The COVID-19 pandemic required significant public health interventions from local governments. Although nonpharmaceutical interventions often were implemented as decision rules, few studies evaluated the robustness of those reopening plans under a wide range of uncertainties. This paper uses the Robust Decision Making approach to stress-test 78 alternative reopening strategies, using California as an example. This study uniquely considers a wide range of uncertainties and demonstrates that seemingly sensible reopening plans can lead to both unnecessary COVID-19 deaths and days of interventions. We find that plans using fixed COVID-19 case thresholds might be less effective than strategies with time-varying reopening thresholds. While we use California as an example, our results are particularly relevant for jurisdictions where vaccination roll-out has been slower. The approach used in this paper could also prove useful for other public health policy problems in which policymakers need to make robust decisions in the face of deep uncertainty.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.