You can’t find ‘super-spreader’ businesses with old GPS data

ITALY-HEALTH-VIRUSPhoto by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images

Today, as America faces a difficult debate about “reopening” state economies during the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times seemingly offered a helpful piece of guidance. The paper’s opinion section published a visualization of how people engage with different businesses like bars and gyms, estimating their risk of infection at each. Alarmingly, it dubbed some of these places dangerous “super-spreader businesses” — warning that “through the lens of contagion, a yoga class, a busy corner store, or a crowded neighborhood bar may look a lot like a wet market in China.”

But at least in this story, the real worry isn’t contagion. It’s the sweeping assumptions being trained on some very limited data. And it doesn’t say much about whether…

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