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New study pinpoints locations that are highest risk for COVID-19 spread

Re-opening full-service restaurants, gyms, hotels and religious organizations produced the most significant predicted increases in COVID-19 infections, according to a report conducted in the early stages of the pandemic (Source: “New study says restaurants and gyms are high-risk places to catch COVID-19,”, Nov. 12).

The study, published in Nature on Tuesday, used location data from mobile applications, examined data from March through May 2. It analyzed cellphone data from 98 million Americas in 10 metro areas, including Chicago and New York City.

Places of worship, gyms, and cafes were shown to be high-risk vectors for the coronavirus’s spread. The models do not pinpoint exactly where the exposure happened. Also, location data was unavailable in certain areas, such as nursing homes or schools. The model also predicted an increase in infections from hotels, sporting good stores and doctor’s offices.

Another significant takeaway from the data showed that people from lower-income areas encountered higher virus transmission rates at these venues than visitors from higher-income areas. Data showed that the average grocery store frequented by people from lower-income neighborhoods had almost 60% more hourly visitors per square foot, and their visitors stayed 17% longer on average.