Reopening the Economy: Where Are You Most Likely to Get Coronavirus?

As we gradually get back to our social lives back after being in lockdown for months, you're probably wondering what places might be coronavirus hotspots. Based on a biology researcher's findings, here's a list of places you should look out for.

Reopening the Economy: Where Are You Most Likely to Get Coronavirus?
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Reopening the Economy: Where Are You Most Likely to Get Coronavirus?

This might help smooth the transition out of lockdown... Until we go on lockdown again. Erin Bromage, a renowned researcher at the University of Massachusetts Biology Department, gathered data from studies published since the beginning of the epidemic and put it together in a very detailed article, after putting all the information in layman's terms.

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His aim was to answer a question that we're all -- or all should be -- asking ourselves: where are we most likely to catch the virus? Here's a list of places you might be going to in the coming weeks and months, along with their likelihood of putting you at risk of getting coronavirus:

Restaurants and bars

Fortunately, most countries affected by the virus aren't reopening restaurants just yet. And there's a very good reason for that. A study carried out by Chinese researchers revealed how a single customer, who was infected but asymptomatic, infected nine people at a restaurant in Canton. Erin Bromage explains that the carrier of the virus, who had no symptoms, had dinner with 9 of his friends, and the dinner lasted about an hour and a half.

During that time, he emitted particles of the virus into the air just by breathing, as he was not seen coughing. Still, "half of the people seated at his table fell ill the following week, as well as 75% of the people who were seated at the table next to his, and two other people who were seated at a third table."

So it's probably best to stay away from bars and restaurants, or at least follow social distancing measures if you must go to them.

Indoor sports venues

How are we going to bring back sports after lockdown? Certainly not indoors. Because even physical activity that only requires moderate exertion, or "low intensity" exercise, can be dangerous when done indoors.

Researcher Erin Bromage leans on a paper from the National Post in Canada, which investigated a curling tournament in the province of Alberta. A single athlete caused the contamination of 24 participants, out of the 72 present. Even though it looks less physically demanding than other sports, curling is always practised with very little space between the athletes, in a cool, closed space. This sport involves "intense breathing for an extended period of time."

So we can't help but think about what might happen -- and how much worse the consequences could be -- if indoor football, handball, basketball, or any other indoor sport, were to resume.


A study published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention mentions an outbreak at a call centre in Seoul, South Korea. An employee on the eleventh floor infected 94 of the 216 employees working on that floor: that's 43.5% or almost half of the office.

"This case shows that staying in a closed place for a long time with an infected person breathing the same air increases the risk of infection," explains Erin Bromage. This also shows that the amount of time we're exposed to the virus is a key factor in the spread of Sars-CoV-2.

It's probably safer to continue telecommuting -- if you can, of course. Unfortunately, many factory workers don't have that luxury. Just look at production plants in the United States, where "outbreaks have been reported in 115 food processing facilities, in 23 states."

Birthdays and funerals

It's no surprise that these celebrations are "risky," and the following study proves it. In it, researchers focused on the case of a Chicago man, who was infected but didn't know it. "At a family dinner - which lasted three hours, during which plates and cutlery were shared - he gave the virus to 2 members of his family."

But it doesn't stop there. The next day he "goes to a funeral, where he hugs family members and infects another one. Then, the man goes to a birthday party where there are 9 guests. Later, 7 of them get sick." The man started to feel ill soon after and later died. "People who were infected at the party later went to the church, where others were infected," explains the researcher. "Bob was indirectly responsible for the contamination of 16 people and the deaths of 3 of them.”

He also insists that public events where groups of people come together should be avoided, calling to mind the gathering of a Washington state choir where 45 of the 60 members were infected, and two of them died.

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