6 Places That Should Reopen Last, According to MIT Researchers

MIT researchers identified which business should be the last to reopen—and the answers may surprise you.

As the country continues to open up after the lockdown caused by coronavirus pandemic, people are facing difficult questions every day about where they can safely go and where they should avoid. Now, new research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has some answers. For a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the MIT scientists did a cost-benefit analysis of 26 different types of businesses, comparing the risk of getting infected at the establishment to the business' value to the economy and our lives. The researchers juxtaposed how different locations fare in terms of importance versus transmission risk.

It's probably no surprise that, according to the MIT team, the locations that should be opened up immediately include grocery stores, banks, dentists, universities, and big box stores. But here are the sorts of businesses that, in the eyes of these researchers, should reopen last. And for more on staying safe amid reopening, check out The No. 1 Worst Thing You Can Do When Retail Stores Reopen.

Cafes, juice bars, and dessert parlors

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Boutique storefronts that focus on coffee, juices, and desserts were low on MIT's list of businesses that should reopen. These relatively niche businesses pose more risk than value, according to the researchers. This could be because many of these places are used by patrons who are sitting indoors (a COVID-19 risk) while drinking no more than a few cups of coffee (a low economic return).


white man with face mask and gloves lifting weights at the gym

Gyms appear to be a luxury in the time of the pandemic, in large part due to the increased aerosol droplets that are exhaled by people working out. It's for these reasons that gyms should be among the last businesses to reopen, according to the MIT research. And for more on this, check out 5 Things the CDC Says You Still Shouldn't Be Doing.

Sporting goods stores

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Sporting goods stores are like grocery stores in that they are high-trafficked, often crowded, and poorly ventilated indoor places—which means they're potentially COVID-19 breeding grounds. Unlike grocery stores, however, they do not sell any essential items. So the purchasing of recreational goods and sporting equipment should be left online until we are much further along in the abatement of this contagion. And for more on the summer activities you need to avoid, check out 7 Things You Won't Be Able to Do This Summer Thanks to Coronavirus.


book shelves

Bookstores ranked very poorly compared to many other sorts of businesses MIT looked at. While they represent less risk to customers than other businesses, the economic benefit and value to the patron were very low relative to other businesses examined. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Tobacco shops

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Tobacco shops obviously are not businesses that benefit the health of the customer. So is it any surprise that these sorts of businesses would rank so poorly in MIT's research? And if you want to nix tobacco from your life, check out The 10 Best Ways to Stop Smoking You've Never Tried.

Liquor stores

liquor store shelves

The sale of liquor reportedly went way up during the coronavirus lockdown, which is, in many ways, no surprise. But researchers suggest liquor stores should be among the last shops to reopen, taking into account the personal value they provide compared to the increased risk. And for more things to consider as you venture out into the world, check out 15 Seemingly Innocuous Habits That Increase Coronavirus Risk.

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