New Study Finds Spikes In Coronavirus Cases Linked To In-Person Restaurant Dining

Julie Scagell

The JPMorgan study analyzed spending habits as a predictor of an increase in coronavirus cases

A new study found that a recent surge in restaurant spending was linked to a surge in coronavirus cases weeks later, noting that a “card-present” transaction in restaurants (dining at the restaurant vs. ordering food online for takeout) was “particularly predictive” of a future coronavirus spike.

JPMorgan analyzed 30 million Chase credit and debit cardholder’s spending habits and compared it to coronavirus data from Johns Hopkins University, and found that spending patterns in restaurants “have some power in predicting where the virus has spread since then,” said analyst Jesse Edgerton. The study found that the “level of spending in restaurants three weeks ago was the strongest predictor of the rise in new virus cases over the subsequent three weeks.”

The financial firm also found similar patterns with supermarket spending, but grocery store shopping was correlated to a slower spread of coronavirus. “High levels of supermarket spending are indicative of more careful social distancing in a state,” Edgerton wrote. Data analyzed from three weeks ago in states like New York and New Jersey (now seeing a decrease in cases) showed supermarket spending was up 20% or more from a year ago and in states now seeing an increase in cases (like Texas and Arizona) supermarket spending was up less than 10%.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that New York City would not resume indoor dining at restaurants next week as anticipated. “Indoors is the problem more and more,” said de Blasio. “The news we have gotten from around the country gets worse and worse. It is not the time to forge ahead with indoor dining.”

Similarly in California, the Sacramento Bee reported that Governor Gavin Newsom directed 19 counties, including Sacramento and Los Angeles, to shut down restaurants for indoor dining before the Fourth of July weekend and to stay closed for at least the next three weeks.

McDonald’s had reopened its indoor dining areas in approximately 2,200 of its 14,000 U.S. locations in mid-June and is now reversing course. On Wednesday, McDonald’s announced they would be temporarily pausing the reopening of their dining rooms at least for the next three weeks due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases, Food and Wine reported.

The National Restaurant Association said in a statement (via Fortune) that “it is irresponsible to pin the rise [of COVID-19 cases] on a single industry. Restaurants have historically operated with highly regulated safety protocols based on the FDA’s Food Code and now have taken new steps to meet social distancing guidelines required by state and federal officials. We all have responsibility for wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing.”

Just a friendly reminder that takeout is a great and safe way to not make dinner, practice social distancing, and support your local restaurants.

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