“If you think of restaurants, people stay there for a long time, and a lot of them are small places where people are crowded,” said Jure Leskovec, lead author of the study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature. “The population density there is quite high compared to the grocery stores and department stores which are larger places and which are not nearly as crowded as the restaurants. “The chances of getting infected are also higher in gyms, cafes, hotels and places of worship, but the risks are about four times lower than in restaurants, according to the study.
As cases of COVID-19 increase across the country, cities are instituting new restrictions. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Wednesdayon restaurants, bars and gyms. The measures were imposed after new infections were frequently attributed to visits to these types of sites, Cuomo said.
In Chicago, just 10% of so-called points of interest – very compact out-of-home sites ranging from full-service restaurants to car dealerships – account for more than 80% of COVID-19 infections, the researchers found. Without limiting where people walk or implementing other containment measures, a third of the U.S. population would be infected with COVID-19 in a single month, according to the results.
“This means that the virus spreads very quickly, and social distancing and staying at home are effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” Leskovec said.
According to the study, capping occupancy rates has proven to be an effective reopening strategy. Yes, for example, were to reopen at 20% of its capacity, compared to full occupancy, coronavirus infections would be reduced by more than 80%, according to Leskovec. These dining establishments, meanwhile, would only see a 42% reduction in the total number of visits.
Indeed, the relationship between predicted infections and the number of visits is not linear. “One can achieve a disproportionate reduction in infections with a small reduction in visits,” the authors wrote.
“What we show very well is that early openings are not all or nothing. A reopening at reduced occupancy can be a very effective way to reduce the number of infections, ”said Leskovec.
Low-income populations are more prone to infections, the study also showed. This is partly because they could be, or have their groceries delivered, forcing them to come into more frequent contact with people who may be infected with COVID-19.
“In wealthier neighborhoods, people can stay at home,” Leskovec said. “But people in poor neighborhoods have to go to work, or maybe they can’t afford to deliver food. “