NEW YORK, NY — A New York City-based data firm is analyzing mobility data to determine which communities around the country are adhering to social distancing measures enacted to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Despite New York City’s current status as the epicenter of the virus’ spread in the United States, New Yorkers as a whole are doing well in keeping their distance, according to Unacast’s new “social distancing scoreboard.”
According to the new data tool launched Tuesday, all five New York City boroughs received “A” grades for social distancing. Manhattanites are the best at following instructions to cut down on social interactions with a 77% drop in the average distance traveled in the borough, followed by Queens at 55%, Brooklyn and Staten Island at 50% and then the Bronx at 48%, according to the data firm
Curious how other states and counties measured up? Check out the Social Distancing Scoreboard interactive map.
The numbers recorded by Unacast fit with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most recent assessment of the city’s social distancing measures. During his Wednesday evening press briefing, the mayor said: “Overwhelmingly, New Yorkers are paying attention to social distancing rules they understand how serious it is, they understand it’s about their health and their family’s health and our whole City. So, overwhelmingly, we are seeing New Yorkers follow the rules.”
When the new coronavirus hit the United States, Unacast saw an opportunity to provide a service to local and state officials, as well as the general public, according to Thomas Walle, CEO and co-founder of Unacast.
“We sat down and asked ourselves, ‘How can we help? What can we do?'” Walle said. “Something we’re really good at as a company is understanding social behavior, and our goal was to create awareness around what social distancing policies and guidelines are working, and which ones are not.”
To calculate a state or county’s grade on the scoreboard, Unacast uses real-time location data from tens of millions of mobile phones and calculated the average distance being traveled now compared with before the coronavirus outbreak. The organization then took that data and juxtaposed it against the number of confirmed cases in the state or county, as reported by the Corona Data Scraper. It’s worth noting that most New Yorkers don’t have to travel very far to come in contact with other people, so even while shortening trips New Yorkers should only interact socially with people who share their household.
Unacast uses anonymous data that does not track the travels of any individual person, the company said.
States and counties receiving an A grade are seeing a decrease in movement of more than 40 percent, while those receiving a B are seeing a decrease of between 30 percent and 40 percent. Those that received a failing grade are seeing a decrease in movement of less than 10 percent.
Unacast also found that the more coronavirus cases are confirmed in an area, the greater the decrease in the average distance traveled. In other words, those states and counties are doing better at social distancing.
“It’s clear different parts of the United States are social distancing very differently,” Walle said. “What we found were states on the East and West coasts are taking the most precautions, which is probably tied to those states having shelter-in-place orders, while we haven’t seen much change in Midwest states.”
Social distancing is defined as deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. It is a containment strategy advised by both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Examples of social distancing include:
- Working from home instead of at the office.
- Closing schools or switching to online classes.
- Visiting loved ones via electronic devices instead of in person.
- Canceling or postponing conferences and large meetings.
States topping the list according to scoreboard grade are:
- Washington, D.C. (A)
- Alaska (A)
- Nevada (A)
- New Jersey (A)
- Rhode Island (A)
The bottom five states on the list are:
- Oregon (C)
- New Mexico (C)
- Idaho (D)
- Montana (D)
- Wyoming (F)
To provide an accurate picture on how social distancing is working over time, Unacast updates the scoreboard daily. Read more about the organization’s methodology in determining a state or county’s grade.