Maybe These Businesses Should Stay Closed

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We all want the coronavirus pandemic to be over, but even while cities and states are starting to open up again, COVID-19 is not done with us yet. Cases and hospitalizations are still rising in many areas, and nearly half of infectious carriers may be asymptomatic. All that has big implications for every aspect of our lives, not least where we should and shouldn't publicly gather.


For the most part, we still shouldn't be going to the beach, but researchers at MIT have just released a study looking more deeply at what kinds of businesses should and shouldn't place limits on exposure while COVID is still so haphazardly contained. The researchers analyzed 26 different kinds of businesses along two axes: usefulness and risk. "Vital forms of commerce that are relatively uncrowded fare the best in the study," according to a press release; "less significant types of businesses that generate crowds perform worse."

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With this lens, it's probably still a good time to avoid "liquor and tobacco stores; sporting goods stores; cafes, juice bars, and dessert parlors; and gyms," thanks to their high crowding factor and low economic benefit factor. Banks and higher education, however, might be far less of an infection risk, provided effective policies stay in place. (That might be a big ask, of course: We're still trying to figure out how to ride elevators.) Of course, COVID may be keeping us at home for more than simply health reason — one-third of Americans have lost significant income during the shutdown.