Places With No Social Distancing Face 35 Times More Coronavirus Cases, Study Finds

( Social distancing has proven to be an effective tool at stopping the spread of the coronavirus, a new study has found.
The study, which was published last week in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal, found the longer that social distancing was in place, the slower the daily growth rate of coronavirus was. Researchers examined confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. between March 1 through April 27, when the total cases were at 1 million.
They found the daily infection rate dropped by more than 9% when social distancing policies lasted between 16 and 20 days. Policies that lasted only 15 days even saw declines in the total infection rate.
As the researchers wrote:
“Holding the amount of voluntary social distancing constant, these results imply 10 times greater spread by April 27 without [shelter-in-place orders] … and more than 35 times greater spread without any of the four measures.”
At one time in late March and early April, social distancing measures were mandated in just about every state in the country. In recent weeks, however, states have begun loosening shelter-in-place orders. And while they have recommended social distancing remain in place even when people go out, there have been plenty of places, and people, that have not abided by that advice.
Thus far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has only released general guidelines for how businesses such as bars and restaurants can re-open safely. They’re expected to release more detailed and specific guidelines soon, though.
Many in the restaurant and bar industry are struggling with the balance between the need to social distance for safety and the need to pack their place with as many people as possible to remain profitable.
Many restaurants and bars are small independently-owned businesses that don’t have a lot of financial wiggle room. A recent survey conducted by the James Beard Foundation and the Independent Restaurant Coalition found that 71% of respondents said they had a profit margin of less than 10% in the last year.
The survey also found that more than 38% of the 1,500 businesses surveyed have closed temporarily and may not ever re-open. In total, more than 77% of the restaurants say they have experienced at least a 50% reduction in sales.
When these businesses are allowed to re-open, they are concerned about customers returning. This concern is compounded by the fact that they’ll have to face a complete restructuring of their locations to accommodate social distancing.
In Georgia, for example, one restaurant owner in Georgia, Blaiss Nowak, told CNN that he used to have roughly 200 people in his restaurant each now, but now it’s just 50, since tables have to be spread 12 feet apart. The main dining area used to be able to seat 60 people at once, but now it can only seat 24.
Danny Meyer, the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, said they will remain closed instead of operating at partial capacity. As he told Bloomberg News:
“There is no interest or excitement on my part to having a half-full dining room while everyone is getting their temperature taken and wearing masks, for not much money.”