Story at a glance
- Coronavirus cases are spiking in a number of states that had begun reopening.
- As governors defend their decisions, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said travelers might be to blame.
- Americans have been traveling more and social distancing less, but data shows that behavior is consistent across states.
Across the United States, states are breaking records with new coronavirus cases and deaths, proving public health experts right about the dangers of reopening too early with human cost.
With plenty of blame to go around, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is now pointing the finger at Americans traveling across state boundaries.
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“If you look at the South, everything happened around June 12 to June 16. It all simultaneously kind of popped,” he told the Journal of the American Medical Association. “We’re of the view that there was something else that was the driver. Maybe the Memorial Day, not weekend, but the Memorial Day week, where a lot of Northerners decided to go South for vacations.”
As states began issuing stay-at-home orders, data collection company Unacast has used Americans’ mobile phones to track their average change in mobility since before the pandemic.
Currently, the United States has an F on their grading scale for social distancing, representing a less than 25 percent reduction in average distance traveled and less than 55 percent reduction in non-essential visits. The country’s best grade was a B in late March and early April, when the data showed a 55 to 70 percent decrease in average mobility. But that number rose again throughout May and June, when states began to reopen.
“Something happened in mid-June that we’re now confronting right now,” Redfield told the AMA. “And it’s not as simple as just saying it was related to timing of reopening or not reopening.”
Among states, only a handful have above an F, with the highest reporting a D+, or a 25 to 40 percent decrease in average distance traveled and 55 to 60 percent decrease in nonessential visits. Most of these are in the West, excluding California and Washington, but there is no clear divide between states in the North and South.
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