Which Businesses Should Reopen First? A New MIT Study Has Answers.

As states plan to let businesses reopen, here’s a data-driven approach to determine who should be first in line

Kaushik Viswanath
Marker
Published in
8 min readMay 8, 2020

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A photo of a neon OPEN sign on top of a business storefront.
Photo: Matt Champlin/Getty Images

The grand reopening of America’s businesses has begun. On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presented a plan for the phased reopening of the state’s businesses, while California Governor Gavin Newsom also announced that some of the state’s businesses would begin to reopen on Friday. Meanwhile, some other states have already given their businesses the green light to reopen, starting with Georgia, which allowed all kinds of businesses, including gyms, bowling alleys, and tattoo parlors, to reopen their doors starting April 24.

Governments and businesses that rely on in-person transactions are struggling with the question of how to weigh the health risks of reopening — or remaining open — against the economic and societal costs of staying closed for business owners, their employees, and communities they serve. But which types of businesses are most worth the risk?

A new study out of MIT aims to answer this question, ranking various types of businesses and public locations by weighing the danger they present for continued transmission against their economic and social benefit. (Spoiler: It doesn’t…

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Kaushik Viswanath
Marker

Previously: Creators & Marker @Medium and business books at Penguin Random House.