Mobility tracking data shows people are defying shelter-in-place rules

May 2, 2020 | 7 comments

By John Koetsier

Bye-bye shelter-in-place. Hello re-opening.

Apple’s Mobility Trends report shows that traffic in the U.S. and other countries like Germany has pretty much doubled in the past three weeks. It had been down up to 72%. And location data provider Foursquare says that gas and fast food visits are back to pre-Covid-19 levels in the American Midwest.

Rural areas are following the same pattern. “Gas station traffic has returned to pre-Covid-19 levels in the Midwest, and in rural areas throughout the country,” Foursquare said yesterday in a blog post. “Foot traffic to quick service restaurants (QSRs) has risen over the past several weeks.”

Whether governments, medical professionals, and scientists want it to or not, people seem tired of the shutdown and eager to get back to some semblance of normal life.

Another sign of the impending return to normal?

Grocery store visits are down to normal levels, after being 30-40% higher than normal in late March as people tried to stock up for a long shutdown.

Even with some airlines operating, air travel is still down more than 90%.

While the Apple data is measured by people searching Apple Maps for directions, the Foursquare data is captured by people actually visiting locations. 13 million Americans have granted the company permission to capture their data and use it in privacy-safe ways.

While more people are going more places, it hasn’t impacted a number of hard-hit industries just yet:

  • Gyms: still down 65-69%
  • Clothing stores: still down 72%
  • Furniture stores: still down 56-60%
  • Movie theaters: still down 75%
  • Airlines: still down 92%

Nail salons, on the other hand, are “only” down 38-42%, and hotels in the Midwest are down just 49%, compared to a 63-70% decline in other regions.

Interestingly, as Apple’s data from Canada shows, while driving and walking are edging back up to normal levels, people are avoiding transit, which is still down 79% from pre-Coronavirus levels. Driving by yourself is safe, apparently, but sitting in a bus or on a train with hundreds of others is not.

“People are feeling the itch to get back to the real world,” Foursquare says. “As officials begin the process of relaxing some business restrictions, we’re starting to see upticks in foot traffic to various places. This is true across regions, regardless of state-specific policies.”

Covid-19 cases seem to have started to level off in the US, but there are still 1.1 million total cases, with 65,034 deaths. There are currently almost 900,000 active cases. The question is: as states start to open up, and as people start to decide they’re done with quarantine and shelter-in-place policies, will that go up?

Most likely yes, unless we adopt measures that countries like Taiwan have perfected: masks, social distancing, and contact tracing of the infected. That’s enabled Taiwan to limit the spread of Coronavirus and save lives.

Without them, an attempt to reach herd immunity could result in many more deaths.

Credit: Forbes


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