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March 29, 2020

County-by-County Social Distancing Map of the U.S.

Screen Shot 2020-03-28 at 3.33.12 PM

From the Washington Post:

If you have a smartphone, you're probably contributing to a massive coronavirus surveillance system.

And it's revealing where Americans have — and haven't — been practicing social distancing.

On Tuesday, a company called Unacast that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data launched a "Social Distancing Scoreboard" that grades, county by county, which residents are changing behavior at the urging of health officials.

It uses the reduction in the total distance we travel as a rough index for whether we're staying put at home.

Comparing the nation’s mass movements from March 20 to an average Friday, Washington, D.C., gets an A, while Wyoming as a whole earns an F.

How do they know that?

Efforts to track public health during the coronavirus pandemic are a reminder of the many ways phones reveal our personal lives, both as individuals and in the aggregate.

Unacast's location data comes from games, shopping and utility apps that tens of millions of Americans have installed on their phones — information the company normally analyzes for retailers, real estate firms and marketers.

It's part of a shadowy world of location tracking that consumers often have little idea is going on.

There's no evidence that the U.S. government is using phones to enforce stay-at-home orders or track patients.

But privacy is often the first civil right on the chopping block when public health and national security are at risk.

Getting the balance right is hard.

South Korea has used an app to track tens of thousands of quarantined people whose phones would alert authorities if they left home.

Unacast, a small start-up, assigns letter grades to counties and states based on how much residents have changed their movements on a specific date compared to what's typical on that day of the week.

If many people in an area used to commute daily to work but now are leaving the house only for visits to the grocery store, the data would show a big reduction in travel distance.

The Unacast maps are searchable and will be updated daily. 

Unacast assigned an A grade to places that show at least a 40 percent decrease in average distance traveled.

On March 20, the first day in its database, the states as a whole that earned an A included Alaska, Massachusetts, Nevada and Vermont.

Big reductions in movement are also visible in areas hit hard by the virus, such as New York City (a 57 percent change) and California’s Santa Clara county (a 54 percent change).

Unacast deemed anything less than a 10 percent change an F: Only Wyoming earned that grade.

Albemarle County in Virginia,


where I live,


gets a gold star.

March 29, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


I say this map is BS. The idea that New York does better at social distancing than Wyoming or New Mexico is preposterous.

Posted by: antares | Mar 29, 2020 3:30:29 PM

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