Americans on the move as COVID-19 orders lift

May 14, 2020

More Americans have traveled away from their homes in the past week compared with the preceding six weeks, a new analysis from The New York Times found, showing that states' decisions to reopen parts of their economies have increased mobility across the country.

The analysis was based on cellphone data and showed that 25 million Americans left their home on average each day of last week. In every part of the country, the percentage of Americans staying home dropped, for an overall average of 36.1 percent of Americans staying at home.

The Times found the peak staying-at-home activity occurred in the two weeks after March 20, when almost all states first issued stay-at-home orders.

The states with the highest proportion of residents staying at home during their peak were New York (54 percent of residents), New Jersey (53 percent), Massachusetts (52 percent), and Michigan (50 percent). The percentage fell in all four states as of last week, to 39 percent of residents in Michigan (the largest drop in the country) and to 45 percent or 46 percent in the other states.

Despite that movement, the strong majority of Americans still say they do not expect to safely gather in groups of 10 or more until at least July.

That information comes from a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. More than two-thirds of adults surveyed said it will not be safe for gatherings of 10 or more until midsummer, and 25 percent said it will not be safe until 2021 or later.

Eighty-six percent polled said they believe it is important to stay six feet away from others in public, and 80 percent said it was important to wear a mask. Seventy-eight percent said it was important to stay home when possible.

Overall, 58 percent of Americans polled said they are very or somewhat worried about contracting and getting ill from COVID-19, down from 63 percent last week.

In related news, a biostatistician at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has created an ensemble COVID-19 forecasting model that compares and merges various predictions of the virus; by June 6, the model predicts 110,000 U.S. deaths.

The model considers projections made by eight other modeling groups, including those built by the Imperial College London, the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Columbia University and Northeastern University.

The largest state university system in the country, the Cal State University (CSU) system, announced almost all courses offered during the fall 2020 semester will be online.

The decision involves 770,000 students in the system, all of whom moved to distance learning in March. Some students and courses will be allowed in person, but the offerings are limited.

Universities in at least six states have said they plan to return to campus in the fall, including the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina system, Texas Tech University, the University of Tennessee, the University of Louisiana system and Morgan State University in Maryland.

In other California news, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the LA County stay-at-home order will likely be extended through the next three months. The order affects 10 million residents. Some businesses, restaurants and beaches will open throughout the county—with restrictions in place.

On the East Coast, Boston Children's Hospital has seen six cases of a rare, inflammatory syndrome linked to COVID-19 in pediatric patients, and the Bay State Medical Center said clinicians there have seen a "few" of the same cases in recent weeks, according to WBUR Boston. Massachusetts is now the third state with documented cases of the pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which can be fatal, and has been most widely documented in New York.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there have been 102 suspected cases of the inflammatory syndrome in the state, including three fatalities. Eighty-two of those cases were in New York City.

Of the pediatric patients in New York, 60 percent of the children showing symptoms of the syndrome had tested positive for the virus, and 40 percent tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

Neighboring New Jersey also reported 18 cases of the syndrome in children, four of whom tested positive for the coronavirus.

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