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America is, once again, on the move.
The New York Times reports that fewer people are staying at home, even though not every governor is ready to lift coronavirus-related lockdown measures designed to slow or prevent the spread of the virus. It turns out, millions of people, even if they aren’t gathering at statehouses to protest lockdowns, are making decisions for themselves, electing to venture further out, even as COVID-19 remains a threat.
The Times analyzed widely available cellphone location data, largely gleaned from apps that require users to toggle on “location services,” to track movement across the 48 continental states.
“After weeks cooped up at home following governors’ orders to contain the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. residents appear eager to get moving again,” the outlet found. “As more states began to relax restrictions, about 25 million more people ventured outside their homes on an average day last week than during the preceding six weeks.”
“Last week, the share of people staying home was 36.1 percent, on average, or about 119 million people. That’s a drop of 7.7 percentage points from the average during the peak period for sheltering in place,” the NYT continued. “From March 20, when states began telling people to stay home, to April 30, when many states eased those restrictions, 43.8 percent of U.S. residents — about 144 million people — stayed home.”
States like Georgia, Colorado, Texas, and Florida found themselves on the receiving end of harsh criticism after lifting strict lockdown measures, allowing many of their residents to return to work and opening up large swaths of public land. But even in states where lockdowns are now almost nonexistent, movement was consistent with or lower than states where lockdowns remain in place.
Residents of Michigan, still under strict shelter-in-place orders, were the most mobile overall, with more than 10% more residents, on average, leaving their homes. Minnesota and Vermont followed close behind; around 8% more people took flight over the past week than in weeks before.
Around 60% of the country is still staying home, but that may change with news, this week, that states where lockdown orders were recently lifted haven’t experienced predicted spikes in COVID-19 diagnoses. Florida and Georgia both had slight declines in their numbers, save for an outbreak in nursing homes in the Miami-Dade area, and Texas has remained steady with about 1,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus per day. On Wednesday, it appeared Texas may have taken a slight drop, but the numbers were not yet fully available.
Things may also change for areas of the country where mayors and governors are being more restrictive, even though evidence seems to indicate coronavirus infections in many areas of the United States are in decline. Residents seem to be deciding on their own when it’s safe to resume regular activities, even if many of those activities are modified for life in a pandemic.
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