In New York, drop in commuters helped lead to a drop in COVID-19

People on a subway.

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Areas of New York City that experienced a drop in work-related commuting during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic had a lower prevalence of infections when compared with areas that did not have as significant a reduction in work-related commuting, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The prevalence of COVID-19 in New York City varied substantially among the city’s five boroughs between March and May. Using data from COVID-19 tests from 1,746 women as well as data from the Facebook Data for Good initiative, the researchers found that the estimated prevalence in Manhattan was substantially lower than in Queens and the Bronx.

The researchers wrote that prevalence of COVID-19 was lowest in boroughs with the greatest reductions in morning movements out of and evening movements into the borough and that the findings underscore the need for widespread testing in order to better under disparities in COVID-19 exposures and assess the risk of future outbreaks.

The study was published in Nature Communications on Sept. 16, 2020.

Harvard Chan School authors include Stephen Kissler, Nishant Kishore, Caroline Buckee, and Yonatan Grad.