Posted: Nov 13, 2020
Restaurants, gyms and coffee shops rank high among locations where the coronavirus is most likely to spread outside the home. That’s according to a newly published report based on data from millions of Americans, tracked by their phones as they went about daily life during the pandemic’s first wave.
The study provides statistical support for a strategy built around limiting capacity at indoor venues — such as capping crowds at 20 percent — while allowing those locations to remain open. The researchers contend that such a strategy can make a huge dent in the infection rate while causing a far more modest drop in the total number of visits to those venues.
Starting with a “very simple” epidemiological model, the researchers superimposed the cellphone mobility data and pressed play on a simulation of viral spread, said Northwestern University epidemiologist Jaline L. Gerardin.
The predicted infections largely matched actual coronavirus caseloads in the studied regions, as tallied by the New York Times.
“Based on the data, the main result is that mobility data can be useful for predicting the spread of covid-19. This is extremely helpful to policymakers,” said Solomon Hsiang, director of the Global Policy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley, who has modeled the effects of several nations’ pandemic policies and was not involved with this work.
By Ben Guarino
November 13, 2020
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