This article originally appeared on the Livingston Patch
ESSEX COUNTY, NJ —As the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States continues to grow, how well is Essex County doing when it comes to social distancing and doing its part to flatten the curve?
A new interactive tool developed and launched Tuesday by Unacast, a New York City and Norway-based company analyzes human mobility data. And when it comes to “social distancing,” Essex County residents are doing a good job staying at least 6 feet away from each other, researchers say.
According to Unacast’s Social Distancing Scoreboard, Essex County received an overall grade of A. The scoreboard also says the county saw a 56 percent decrease in distance traveled by people since the coronavirus outbreak was first confirmed in the United States.
Curious how other states and counties measured up? Check out the Social Distancing Scoreboard interactive map.
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 used 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.
Unacast used 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.
States topping the list according to scoreboard grade are:
Washington, D.C. (A)
New Jersey (A)
Rhode Island (A)
The bottom five states on the list are:
New Mexico (C)
Drilling down the information by county, five counties in Alaska received the highest grades among all counties in the United States.
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.
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.
This article contains reporting from the Patch national desk
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