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The impact of rainfall-induced early social distancing on COVID-19 outbreaks

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  1. skybrian
    (edited )
    Here is the abstract: From the paper: [...]

    Here is the abstract:

    We test whether earlier social distancing affects the progression of a local COVID-19 outbreak. We exploit county-level rainfall on the last weekend before statewide lockdown. After controlling for state fixed-effects, temperature, and historical rainfall, current rainfall is a plausibly exogenous instrument for social distancing. Early distancing causes a reduction in cases and deaths that persists for weeks. The effect is driven by a reduction in the chance of a very large outbreak. The result suggests early distancing may have sizable returns, and that random events early in an outbreak can have persistent effects on its course.

    From the paper:

    Counties where more people left home on the pre-shutdown weekend are no more likely to have a moderate case count, but are slightly more likely to have a big outbreak. This result is what might be expected given that differences in the number of infections on the eve of a statewide lockdown will either vanish or be drastically amplified depending on how well the county succeeds in lowering the viral reproduction rate below 1.


    Subject to caveats discussed in the final section, our results suggest moving even a few days more quickly could make a measurable difference. Our results also suggest that completely random events early in the course of a local outbreak can have surprisingly persistent effects on its size.

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