Higher restaurant spending could be linked to COVID-19 cases, study finds – SF Gate

A new study says there might be a correlation between the rise in COVID-19 cases and spending money at restaurants.

That’s what J.P. Morgan found after reviewing data gathered by John Hopkins University and studying how 30 million Chase debit and credit cardholders have spent their money in the past few weeks.

“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, economic and policy research analyst at J.P. Morgan. “’Card-present’ restaurant spending (meaning in-person rather than online spending) is particularly predictive.”

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At the same time, Edgerton found that consumer spending at supermarkets showed a lower rate of new COVID-19 cases and argued that “high levels of supermarket spending are indicative of more careful social distancing in a state.”

To make his point, Edgerton said in New York and New Jersey – states where new cases have dropped – supermarket spending has increased in the [ast three weeks and up 20% compared to 2019. Comparatively, in Arizona and Texas, where COVID-19 cases have risen, consumers have spent less at supermarkets compared to last year’s numbers.

Edgerton wrote that while he recognizes other factors can drive the spread of the novel coronavirus, especially as states around the United States share other characteristics beyond restaurant spending, he thinks the data indicates a relationship between economic activity and the subsequent spread of COVID-19.

In this graph, J.P. Morgan illustrates California’s rise in COVID-19 cases per million since reopening.

screengrab: J.P. Morgan

According to a separate J.P. Morgan report updated on Friday, California has had a steady uptick in coronavirus cases since reopening. CA.Gov indicated that California had a total of 200,461 cases and a 2.5% increase on June 26.

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On Wednesday, the United States recorded 34,700 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest number since April when cases peaked to 36,400.

Susana Guerrero is an SFGATE digital reporter. Email: Susana.Guerrero@sfgate.com | Twitter: @SusyGuerrero3

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