When it comes to social distancing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana is just below average, according to the latest figures from a data-collecting company.
And the Bayou State isn’t alone.
Unacast, which collects and provides cell phone location data and analysis to the retail, real estate, marketing, and tourism industries, recently gave Louisiana a “D” for its decreases in average mobility and non-essential visits.
The data Unacast uses is from GPS cellular data, and it shows how people move around. For the “Social Distancing Scoreboard,” Unacast is mapping out how people are following social distancing and “stay at home” orders, which experts have said are the best ways to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
The scoreboard is updated as data becomes available, and website moderators said they collect data for a certain day three days afterward to get “the full picture” of movement. After that, another day is taken to process the data, which makes the scoreboard about four days behind the current time. The most recent grades run through March 30.
Besides Louisiana, there are 31 other states that received a letter grade of “D,” giving the same designation to the nation at large. Meanwhile, only 11 states earned a “C,” six states received a “B,” and one (The District of Columbia) was given an “A.”
As a whole, Louisiana has decreased its average distances traveled by 25-40 percent and decreased visits to non-essential places by 55-60 percent, which both match the national average.
Gov. John Bel Edwards referenced the data when speaking with reporters on Friday, saying that the graph shows a lot of Louisiana residents are not taking his social distancing and “stay at home” orders seriously.
While Orleans Parish, the hardest-hit parish from COVID-19, received an “A” and eight other parishes a “C,” the rest of the parishes earned either a “D” or an “F.” Livingston Parish was one of 46 parishes to get a “D.”
“There’s large parts of the state not doing well, but I’m encouraging everyone to take stock of this,” Edwards said. “As we mentioned before this is a statewide problem. We need everyone paying more attention to ‘stay at home’ order and being more compliant.”
Edwards also referenced data from Google, which recently came out with its “Community Mobility Reports” that provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19.
The reports chart movement trends over time by geography and across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.
The community mobility reports track trends in where people are by using location history from users’ cell phones. The reports review what has changed during the outbreak in terms of working from home, shelter-in-place and other policies aimed at flattening the curve.
According to the Community Mobility Reports, which tracked mobility from mid February through the end of March, Louisiana has decreased time spent away from home at a lower rate than the national average (compared to the baseline).
In Louisiana, mobility has decreased at retail and recreation places by 45 percent, grocery and pharmacy by 16 percent, parks by 18 percent, transit stations by 49 percent, and workplaces by 35 percent. Time spent in residential places increased by 11 percent.
Nationally, the country decreased mobility in retail and recreation places by 47 percent, grocery and pharmacy by 22 percent, parks by 19 percent, transit stations by 51 percent, and workplaces by 38 percent. Time spent in residential places increased by 12 percent.
Locally, Livingston Parish has decreased in retail and recreation places by 40 percent, grocery and pharmacy by 12 percent, parks by 13 percent, transit stations by 16 percent, and workplaces by 32 percent. Time spent at home increased by 10 percent.
Despite Louisiana being below the national average, Edwards expressed optimism that people are beginning to follow the mitigation measures. The report shows that Louisiana residents began taking the measures seriously around the end of March, when Edwards declared a public health emergency.
But Edwards said those practices must continue to stem the spread of the novel disease that reached "a grim milestone" on Friday when it surged past 10,200 reported cases and 370 deaths.
“The rate of spread will always depend upon the degree to which people are complying with ‘stay at home’ order and social distancing guidelines we’re putting out and minimizing social contact,” he said.