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Impacts of social distancing policies on mobility and COVID-19 case growth in the US

Gregory Alexander Wellenius
Swapnil Suresh Vispute
Valeria Espinosa
Thomas Tsai
Jonathan Hennessy
Krishna Kumar Gadepalli
Adam Boulanger
Adam Pearce
Chaitanya Kamath
Arran Schlosberg
Catherine Bendebury
Chinmoy Mandayam
Charlotte Stanton
Shailesh Bavadekar
Christopher David Pluntke
Damien Desfontaines
Benjamin H. Jacobson
Zan Armstrong
Katherine Chou
Andrew Nathaniel Oplinger
Ashish K. Jha
Evgeniy Gabrilovich
Nature Communications (2021)


Social distancing has emerged as the primary mitigation strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. However, large-scale evaluation of the effectiveness of social distancing policies are lacking. We used aggregated mobility data to quantify the impact of social distancing policies on observed changes in mobility. Declarations of states of emergency resulted in approximately a 10% reduction in time spent outside places of residence and an increase in visits to grocery stores and pharmacies. Subsequent implementation of ≥1 social distancing policies resulted in an additional 25% reduction in mobility in the following week. The seven states that subsequently ordered residents to shelter in place on or before March 23, 2020 observed an additional 29% reduction in time spent outside the residence. Our findings suggest that state-wide mandates are highly effective in achieving the goals of social distancing to minimize the transmission of COVID-19.

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