Phone data on social distancing


In a world where just about everything is traceable, it does not come as a surprise that Americans’ cell phones are now a great way to track who is self-isolating and social distancing. Unacast, a company that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data, just revealed its “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that shows which residents around the country are actually abiding by the behavior encouraged by health officials.

Unacast compared current location data to data collected on a typical pre-pandemic day, and noted changes in distance traveled, time spent around the house, and activity clusters.

States in which residents are excelling in social distancing are colored in blue while those needing improvement are colored orange.

Photo: Unacast

According to data collected from millions of cell phones recently, Alaska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, DC, are currently doing the best at following social distancing protocol. North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are among those that need improvement.

Each state is given a letter grade ranging from A to F, which can be determined by the state’s coloring. If you delve further into the map, you can browse each state’s specific counties and see how they’ve been graded. An “A” means there has been more than a 40 percent decrease in social behavior, a “B” denotes a 30-40 percent decrease, a “C” is a 20-30 percent decrease, a “D” is a 10-20 percent decrease, and “F” indicates less than 10 percent decrease. The color key is available in the upper-right of the map.

Photo: Unacast

Breaking states down by county is an interesting way of gaining insight into how social distancing attitudes can differ drastically from county to county and from state to state. California, for example, received a B in total, but looking at each county reveals that this relatively high grade is largely thanks to the coastal communities. Many of California’s coastal counties received A grades while inland counties got Ds or Fs.

Visit Unacast’s website to view the interactive map and see how your state is scoring.

A version of this article was previously published on March 25, 2020, and was updated on March 27, 2020, with more information.

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