Retail Store Customer Flow and COVID-19 Transmission
24 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2021
Date Written: December 23, 2020
We examine how operational changes in customer flows in retail stores affect the rate of COVID-19 transmission. We combine a model of customer movement with two models of disease transmission: direct exposure when two customers are in close proximity and wake exposure when one customer is in the airflow behind another customer. We find that the effectiveness of some operational interventions are sensitive to the primary mode of transmission. Restricting customer flow to one-way movement is highly effective if direct exposure is the dominant mode of transmission. In particular, the rate of direct transmission under full compliance with one-way movement is less than one-third the rate under two-way movement. Directing customers to follow one-way flow, however, is not effective if wake exposure dominates. We find that two other interventions - reducing the speed variance of customers and throughput control - can be effective whether direct or wake transmission is dominant. We also examine the trade-off between customer throughput and the risk of infection to customers, and we show how the optimal throughput rate drops rapidly as the population prevalence rises.
Note: Funding: RML was supported by the Host-Microbe Interactions Training Grant NIAID T32AI007519.
Declaration of Interests: The authors state that no conflicts of interest exists.
Keywords: COVID-19, health care operations, industries: retail, service operations management
JEL Classification: I, M
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation