How Social Distancing Has Influenced Where People Go in Every State

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The scale of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is reshaping society in lasting ways – from how we work and buy groceries to the level of freedom of movement we are accustomed to. With stay-at-home orders — each with a different set of restrictive rules — in effect in all but eight states, where people are going and how they are spending their time outside has changed significantly.

24/7 Tempo analyzed population mobility data from Google Maps to determine how the geographic movement of people has changed in every state.

In the five weeks from March 8 through April 11, during which stay-at-home orders for states that issues them were still in effect and the primary concern was flattening the curve and not reopening state economies, Americans were moving — as in going to a place outside — on average 15.4% less than during the period between Jan. 3 and Feb. 6 — Google’s baseline to compare social distancing behavior.

The places we reviewed include recreation mobility like restaurants, shopping centers, and movie theaters; grocery and pharmacy mobility; parks mobility like public parks and beaches; and transit stations mobility subway, bus, and train stations.

The changes in movement vary greatly from state to state. The restrictiveness of stay-at-home orders or the lack of such directives appear to play a role in how people’s movement has changed.

The biggest change across the country has been in using public transportation. There was a 36.3% decline between the March 8-April 11 period and the Jan. 3–Feb 6 period. The mobility trend for places like public transport hubs such as subway, bus, and train stations were negative in all 50 states as people were ordered to work from home if possible and were strongly encouraged to avoid public transit as much as possible — even in states with no stay-at-home orders.

Half of the states with the smallest declines in mobility have never issued statewide stay-at-home orders. States with the biggest increases in visits to public parks usually allowed parks to remain open. For example, in Kansas, where gyms and workout facilities were closed, parks mobility increased by 47.8%, the second highest increase in the country. State residents were encouraged to use parks and exercise outdoors. In contrast, Hawaii, the state with the largest decline in park visits — 44.9% between March 8 and April 11 — closed state parks, historical sites, and recreation areas.

As of April 29, the number of recorded cases of COVID-19 in the United States surpassed 1 million. Although the spread of the pandemic has slowed in some states, others have not even reached the peak yet — these are the states where the coronavirus is spreading the fastest right now.