CDC Says People Came Together and Stayed at Home

When areas issued stay-at-home orders, we saw a lot of scare-mongering articles. There were many "listicles" blogs of pictures of people doing foolish things in large groups: college kids partying, illegal concerts and the like. For people with health conditions that put them at high risk for COVID-19, that could be frightening. In comments, we heard concern from our customers about social distancing, about people not staying home.

It was very frustrating to see people flouting the guidelines when many of us were doing everything we could to protect our loved ones, our communities and ourselves. The good news is that those people who were gathering for large parties were in the minority according to the CDC's information. Using publicly accessible, anonymized location data from mobile devices, the CDC tracked how much people traveled in areas with stay-at-home orders. They determined that people's movement significantly decreased in 97.6 percent of counties when the stay-at-home orders went into effect.

The CDC says there is some limitation to the data; some people may have more than one mobile device. However, as they were comparing data from before and after the stay at home order going into effect, that shouldn't make a difference. Another concern was that not everyone has a mobile device. And, of course, many public events, schools and places were closed. However, when the results are that striking, they cannot be dismissed.

When the stay-at-home orders were lifted, the data showed "significantly increased" movement immediately. This doesn't necessarily mean people rushed to party or that people weren't cautious. Yes, many folks went to get a much-needed haircut. But, office buildings reopened, schools reopened. A lot of businesses that could not wait any longer reopened.

Overall, this data shows an amazing amount of community spirit. People came together to do their best to protect one another! Photos from packed bars, restaurants and pools were the exception rather than the rule.

We think this data is incredibly heartening. The researchers said that "These findings can inform future public policies to reduce community spread of COVID-19." That's true. It shows that people can be trusted, if need be, to follow the request to stay home to protect themselves and others. But, we think there is another message, outside of a practical one. No matter what the divides we see online and in the news, most people appear to be working together offline to help one another get through this!
September 04, 2020
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