Chicago – The spread of COVID-19 slowed in small to medium-sized communities, where large local production facilities and distribution centers closed in the first months of the pandemic, the results of a recent study by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine suggest.
The researchers looked at 153 of these “anchor companies”, each of which had more than 1,000 workers in communities with between 10,000 and 500,000 inhabitants. The communities were located in 110 counties across a 15-state region of the southern United States.
Using public data, the researchers identified 45 counties where an anchor company closed between March and May 2020. After 40 days, the estimated positive test rate in the counties with an anchor business closure was 1 per. 100,000 people, compared to 17 per. 100,000 in the counties without the closure of an anchor company. This corresponds to about 142 fewer positive tests per 100,000 residents in the communities with an anchor company closure over that time frame.
The effect was the same for short-term closures and even partial closures, the researchers note in a press release. In addition, the effect of closures on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was the same as for other measures, such as masking and physical distance.
“Temporary closure of anchor companies is a strategy that governors, county officials and business leaders could consider to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Megan McHugh, co-author and associate professor at NU, in the statement. “Closure of anchor companies should be adopted in combination with other strategies that have been shown to slow the spread of the virus, as closure will slow but not completely limit the spread of COVID-19.”
The study was published in the December issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.