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Coronavirus spike linked to in-person dining, study suggests

Coronavirus

A food server wearing a protective face mask waits on customers at the Parkshore Grill restaurant Monday, May 4, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Several restaurants are reopening with a 25% capacity as part of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – Eating out may have had a large hand in the recent resurgence in coronavirus cases, a new study shows.

Using data from 30 million Chase debit and credit card accounts, JPMorgan compared the information to coronavirus cases reported by Johns Hopkins University.

Analyst Jesse Edgerton found that more “card present” restaurant spending – meaning the card was used in-person and not online – in a state foreshadowed a rise in new infections in that state three weeks later.

Conversely, higher spending in supermarkets predicted a slower spread of the virus, suggesting “more careful social distancing in a state.”

Restaurants in Florida have been open since early May. Since then, more than 100 restaurants and bars in the Tampa Bay area have closed temporarily after opening. And while some of them have since reopened, locations like The Bends in St. Petersburg and The Nona’s Slice House in Safety Harbor have stayed closed as cases continue to rise.

Miami-Dade County officials on Monday walked back the reopening of its restaurants, saying that only outdoor dining would be permitted.

Researchers said that the connection between restaurants and COVID-19 doesn’t mean that eating out is the leading cause of the virus’ spread, but rather an example of policies that are no longer stressing social distancing.

“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 wrote.

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