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In-restaurant spending can predict increased COVID cases: J.P. Morgan

An uptick in in-restaurant spending can predict an increase in COVID-19 cases over three weeks, according to a research note from J.P. Morgan.

"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.

Restaurant purchases with cards presented in person, rather than online, were particularly predictive.

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The opposite was true for supermarket spending, where an increase in credit card purchases was associated with a decline of the virus.

More people buying their food in grocery stores as opposed to restaurants might hint that people were being more careful about social distancing in a particular state, the research note said.

 

 

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.

"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.

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"But we still find it useful to see these relationships between economic activity and subsequent spread of the virus," he added.

The note comes as states such as Florida and Texas have faced criticism for their early reopening strategies amid spikes in COVID-19 cases. Florida obliterated its highest one-day case count Friday with an additional 8,942 cases, 62 percent higher than the last record it set on Wednesday.

Both Florida and Texas on Friday said they'd reinstitute some restrictions in light of the increased number of cases.