Targeted COVID-19 closures could reduce unemployment in NYC


As the epicenter of COVID-19, New York City shut down when the pandemic started. The city now has one of the lowest infection rates in the country, but if the numbers spike again, a new study suggests the entire city doesn’t have to close.

Researchers at the University of Chicago mapped out where people live with the highest infection rates and where people are losing their jobs in New York City. They then used cell phone tracking data to figure out where people are traveling for work.

The researchers found it’s possible to leave neighborhoods like Midtown, Manhattan open for business, with its high amount of jobs and economic activity, while closing certain neighborhoods where people live.

The study found that closing neighborhoods with high infection rates where people leave the area for work could reduce the city’s unemployment rate while still keeping infection rates low.

“If you did that in a targeted way, you would have maybe 40 percent less unemployment, but with the same effect of stopping the growth of the infections,” said Professor John Birge, of the University of Chicago.
It may sound difficult for a city the size of New York City with so many distinct neighborhoods, but researchers say it could be done with contact tracing apps on cellphones. The apps would notify people which neighborhoods are open and which are closed.

It would be similar to what the state did when the pandemic first started in New Rochelle, creating a containment zone.

However, researchers say it would needed to be implemented and tested throughout the region. If one city enforced the zones but people were traveling into the city from nearby states, it wouldn’t have the same affect.

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