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Scientists are examining the potential of a COVID-19 resurgence and how “super-spreader” businesses could risk contributing to the transmission of the coronavirus as states reopen from pandemic shutdowns.
Researchers identified sit-down restaurants, fast-food eateries and hotels as three of the most common so-called “super-spreader” businesses based on the frequency and duration of visits and the square footage of the businesses in a new “preprint” paper that has not yet been certified by peer review.
By looking at the density of those super-spreaders and the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases each week, the researchers found a 1 percentage point increase in the density of those businesses was associated with 5 percent more cases.
“This may have important implications for how states reopen super-spreader businesses,” the paper states.
States across the U.S. are in different stages of reopening. Even as businesses do reopen, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends precautions like cloth face masks, social distancing and frequent sanitizing as people may be carrying the coronavirus while showing few or no symptoms of COVID-19.
The study looked at six states in New England, plus hard-hit New York and California. The authors said they plan to expand the study to all 50 states.
COVID-19 has sickened more than 1.6 million and killed more than 99,000 people in the U.S. as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. New York remains the hardest-hit state in both total cases in deaths.
The researchers aim to build a tool to help policymakers and hospital officials monitor weekly traffic to super-spreader businesses in order to help “plan for a potential second wave.”
They also plan to study how the reopenings affect COVID-19 transmission.