COVID-19 maps misleading: Orazem

April 6, 2020

Dr. Peter OrazemPeter Orazem, university professor, authored an opinion article, "The maps you've seen are misleading. Here's why cellphones don't measure social distancing," in the April 3 Des Moines Register.

"When you look at the Unacast map of its Social Distancing Scoreboard, all the states they rate worst at social distancing are in the Midwest and South. The best are on the coasts. Why? Rural states had lower percentage reduction in cellphone distance for reasons completely unrelated to whether they were diligently hunkered down at home or frolicked with the neighbors."

Orazem was also interviewed for another Des Moines Register story on April 7, "Des Moines businesses seek survival strategies in unprecedented service-sector recession."

"The workers will probably do better than their employers," Orazem said. "They have access to unemployment insurance. The owners don't. The workers may be able to switch to jobs in other sectors."

Orazem was interviewed in an April 4 Ames Tribune story, "Ames hospitality industry market ‘hit hard’ by pandemic, unemployment rising."

“The unemployment rate in Iowa in February is 2.8 percent, so that means the unemployment rate today is probably roughly 9 percent, which would be the highest we’ve seen in some time,” he said. “For perspective, that’s higher than Iowa’s unemployment rate during the last recession.”

According to Orazem, roughly 42 percent of jobs in the Ames metropolitan area are in the government sector and are driven by Iowa State University, which closed its doors on March 18.

“A big chunk of our labor market is relatively immune to this particular shock caused by the coronavirus,” he said.

Orazem was interviewed by Adam Milsap, Forbes magazine contributor, for an April 6 story, "How The Size Of Cities Helps Explain The Spread Of COVID-19."

“All of these commuters are exposed to their own virus sources, and so all of those virus sources converge in the job center. Commuters from places not initially exposed will mix with the exposed commuters from other locations in the circle, and so the virus spreads to all locations in the commuting zone. Hence, the biggest cities are the biggest aggregators of the virus, and their states have the greatest risk of acquiring and spreading the virus.”

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