New Study Reveals The Places You Are Most Likely To Contract COVID-19

It's hard to know what activities are safe as the global coronavirus pandemic rages on around the world. But a new study offers insight into which locations carry the biggest risk of spreading the highly-contagious disease (via New York Post). The study, published in the journal Nature, looked at cases in large US cities and determined the majority of cases were being spread in just a few hot spots. If you guessed the gym is one of them, you'd be correct. Also on the list of super-spreader sites are cafes, restaurants, hotels, and houses of worship.

Incredibly, researchers found that 80 percent of COVID cases were contracted in these places, which only account for 10 percent of locations people visit. And interestingly, this information was mined from data from mobile phones that track the whereabouts of users.

The research may help people plan more effectively how to sidestep their risk of infection, but it's important to note that it does have its shortcomings. For instance, the data results from a simulation, not real-life situations, and researchers didn't look at all the places people visit on a daily basis.

What to take away from the study

The research only looked at 10 US cities, ranging from Denver, to Chicago, to Houston, to Atlanta, and Philadelphia, so the data may or may not have implications for smaller towns and rural areas. But, the takeaway for researchers can definitely apply no matter where you live: Reduce the capacity of people in various venues, and it's likely the spread will slow (via CNN).

"Our model predicts that capping points-of-interest at 20 percent of maximum occupancy can reduce the infections by more than 80 percent," Jure Leskovec, study author and associate professor of computer science at Stanford University explained, adding, "But we only lose around 40 percent of the visits when compared to a fully reopening with usual maximum occupancy." Leskovec stressed, "Our work highlights that it doesn't have to be all or nothing."

There's another important takeaway, which is that the spread of the virus is happening more rapidly in low-income areas, likely because the footprint of a restaurant or store is smaller, so more people can pack into the area at one time. For instance, as Leskovec explained, "Our model predicts that one visit to a grocery store is twice more dangerous for a lower-income individual compared to a higher-income individual."