RALEIGH – Whenever you use a navigation app on your phone, you appreciate how it indicates slowing or stopped traffic, abandoned vehicles, or even speed traps. All that comes from shared mobile location data and application user inputs, but it seems a little creepier when it is used to grade each county’s collective adherence to social distancing during the pandemic panic.
A company called Unacast has done just that, using such data to create a ‘Social Distancing Scorecard‘ for each county, and the State of North Carolina cumulatively. Anonymized into ‘ones and zeros’ or not, Big Brother is watching you. And, as a state, North Carolina scored a ‘B’ — good for us?
From the News & Observer:
“[…] The scoreboard ranks each area on how much travel has dropped since state and federal authorities started to push, and in some cases order, people to isolate themselves.
Counties with some of North Carolina’s biggest cities, including Wake, Mecklenburg, Durham, Guilford and New Hanover, all scored an “A,” as travel dropped by more than 40%.
Chowan, Dare and Hyde counties on the coast scored the highest in the state. Dare County, which includes a long stretch of the Outer Banks, has banned non-residents from entering.
A similar study from Descertes Lab found that people in rural counties in North Carolina, like Bertie, Scotland and Watauga, were actually traveling more.
“Since North Carolina announced its first reported case on March 3 in Wake County, the average distance traveled in those rural communities actually increased between 20% and 30%,” McClatchy News reported Monday.
Social distancing will likely increase in at least some areas of the state as local officials order people to “shelter in place” in more cities and towns. Mecklenburg County is the latest local government to order people to not leave their homes except for essentials like going to the grocery store or pharmacy.
On the other side of the scale, several counties got an “F” on North Carolina’s report card. Halifax, Tyrell, Pamlico and Polk counties all changed travel patterns the least, according to the study.
In Tyrrell County, on the coast, travel actually increased by 28%. […]”
So are we supposed to bully and shame rural counties about their failing social distancing scores? Is this 1984? If the mainstream media is curious about the notable increase in the travel across some counties, perhaps they should review their coronavirus coverage over the last several weeks and employ some critical thinking.
As the focus on the impending doom of the pandemic became sharper and sharper, grocery store shelves became emptier, and people’s impetus to take care of the things they may not be ‘allowed’ to take care of under lockdown conditions likely increased exponentially. A frantic countywide search for toilet paper because hoarders emptied the local grocery store is tends to register an increase in mobile data points.
With more and more locales issuing shelter-in-place orders, don’t be surprised if local governments provide methods for residents to snitch on each other. Hotlines to report people that are not following the command and control decrees are already in operation in other states.
If you want to see how your county scores, and whether or not your need to rat your neighbors out for that third trip to the hardware store and sneaking in an appointment at the hairdresser, go here. And would you look at that; the NC score dropped to a ‘C’ as we are publishing.