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COVID-19 Patients Ate This Before Getting Sick, Study Finds

A new study reveals a rise in new infections is tied to this activity.

As scientists study the correlations between your actions and the spread of COVID-19, new connections are forming. The latest is the link between getting infected and dining out. "Higher restaurant spending appears to be linked to a faster spread of the coronavirus, according to a JPMorgan study," reports CNBC. "JPMorgan analyzed data from 30 million Chase cardholders and Johns Hopkins University's case tracker and found that higher restaurant spending in a state predicted a rise in new infections there three weeks later," says the network. "In-person restaurant spending was 'particularly predictive.' Conversely, higher spending at supermarkets predicted a slower spread of the virus."

Dining Out is "the Strongest Predictor"

"Looking across categories of card spending, we find 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," wrote Jesse Edgerton, of the bank's economic and research department.

One caveat: "The link between restaurants and COVID-19 didn't suggest that eating out is the leading cause of the virus's spread. It may simply be a proxy for a wider set of policies that are reducing social distancing," notes the Hill.

"We recognize that the interplay among the many factors that could drive the spread of the virus could be quite complex, and the states now seeing rapid spreading share other characteristics beyond their restaurant spending," Edgerton said. "But we still find it useful to see these relationships between economic activity and subsequent spread of the virus."

Dr. Fauci Does Not Dine Out

The Washington Post asked a number of experts their thoughts about dining in restaurants and not a single one said they would. 

  • "Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: We don't do anything inside. I don't eat in restaurants. We do get takeout."
  • "Elizabeth Connick, chief of the infectious diseases division and professor of medicine and immunobiology at the University of Arizona: No, no restaurants. I avoid any closed space with a lot of people, particularly when it's people whose risk I don't know. I think the biggest risk is being in a closed space and breathing the same air that other people are breathing, and also not wearing masks. I wouldn't go even if they were wearing masks. I might consider dining outside, although I would rather not. I think being outside is much safer. Takeout, yes. I would die if I didn't do takeout."
  • "Linda Bell, South Carolina's state epidemiologist: I would not dine in a restaurant, but I would dine outside if the restaurant had a safe set up. I do get takeout."
  • "Barry Bloom, Jacobson research professor and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:  I would not dine inside now. I would dine outside. I'm a big believer in outside, that it's safer outside."

As for yourself: don't go to an indoor restaurant unaware of the risk you pose to yourself and to others; wear a well-fitted homemade mask with multiple layers of quilting fabric, or an off-the-shelf cone style mask; practice social distancing; wash your hands frequently; monitor your health; and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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