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Researchers compare social benefits and COVID-19 transmission risk of US locations

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Washington DC | June 11, 2020 8:41:46 AM IST
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, policymakers have imposed restrictions on work, activities, and gatherings, which vary across locations types. Decisions about the types of locations to restrict reflect trade-offs between infection risk and benefits to the economy and consumers.

Authors of the study, Seth G. Benzell, Avinash Collis, and Christos Nicolaides quantified the trade-off for 26 location categories in the United States, and the results are published in PNAS.

For the study, the authors used mobility data from 47 million smartphones to measure the risk of infection at a location.

Measures of a particular location economic benefits, including annual payroll, receipts, and employment, were obtained from the US Census Statistics of US Businesses, whereas consumer benefits were measured using a nationally representative survey of 1,099 US residents.

The team tried to analyse which types of locations pose the best and worst risk-reward trade-offs. The core idea behind the detailed study is to note locations offering better trade-offs should face looser restrictions.

The authors found that benefits were highest relative to risk for banks, dentists, colleges and universities, grocery stores, and general merchandise stores. Benefits relative to risk were lowest for gyms, liquor and tobacco stores, cafes, and sporting goods stores.

Across location categories, the decline in visits between February and March 2020 tended to increase with increasing risk relative to benefits as measured by the authors.

Similar analyses, tailored to specific regions, could help policymakers to prioritize locations for reopening, according to the authors. (ANI)

 
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