By now, it’s clear that COVID-19 has become a significant threat to public health globally, prompting many governments to undertake draconian measures to contain or curtail the epidemic.

Most governments are relying on travel restrictions, isolation, and social distancing as the preeminent methods of stopping the spread of the virus.

What if we were to be more surgical in our approach using location data collected from our devices?

We start with the subset of people who we know tested positive. Using cellphone tower data, we can figure out where these infected people have been and how long they have stayed in each location. Epidemiologists tell us that transmission is most likely to occur between people who are within one meter of each other for 15 minutes or more. We know that infections can also happen because the virus can survive on surfaces, and the analysis could incorporate this observation too, but for simplicity’s sake, we leave it out of analysis here.

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