Phone location data shows Americans have already started traveling more in the past week

Yahoo reports as some states start to reopen businesses and relax stay-at-home orders, millions of Americans are already starting to move around more and travel to other counties, according to aggregated phone location data.

Last week, Americans in nearly every part of the country began leaving home more frequently than they were in the two months prior, according to the data. The trend was noticeably higher in states that have reopened compared to those that remain shut down.

Location analytics firm Cuebiq compiled location data from millions of people’s devices to create a dashboard that shows how much people are moving or staying still. The company estimates the “home” of a smartphone by determining where the device remains in place over time, and defines any travel within 100 meters of that location as “staying home.” Similar efforts have been launched by tech companies like Google and Apple, but Cuebiq’s tools allow for more granular comparison between states and counties.

Mobility is gradually increasing even in states that haven’t reopened. In the month of March, the number of people leaving home in New York was 67% lower than the same time the previous year — but in the past week, mobility in New York was just 29% lower than last year’s average.

“Mobility during the pandemic is increasing as state restrictions begin to lift,” Cuebiq founder and CEO Antonio Tomarchio told Business Insider. “It’s very interesting to see the travel routes that have been affected by COVID-19 and it will be interesting to see what the rebound will be in the coming weeks.”

Cuebiq, like Google and Apple, tracks location data using software built into apps that people download. The practice has faced backlash from some privacy advocates, but location data firms and their partners insist that people’s movements are anonymized and aggregated, and not directly tied to their identities.

Here’s what the data shows about how Americans are moving around amid COVID-19.

Mobility data from mid-March, when most states were instructing businesses to close and people to stay home, shows decreased mobility compared to the year prior. Orange indicates more mobility while blue indicates that more people are staying still.

march mobility trends cuebiq

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