Researchers at the University of Maryland who analyzed smartphone location data found that in the week after Georgia let businesses like dine-in restaurants and hair salons reopen on April 24, an additional 62,440 visitors traveled there daily, with most coming from nearby states where those businesses were still closed.
The researchers said this provides evidence reopening some state economies earlier than others could possibly worsen and extend the spread of coronavirus. “It’s exactly the kind of effect we’ve been worried about,” Prof. Meagan Fitzpatrick of the University of Maryland School of Medicine told The Washington Post. “This is not an unpredictable outcome with businesses opening in one location and people going to seek services there.”
Lei Zhang, the study’s lead researcher, said they used anonymized location data from smartphone apps, which showed that in the week after April 24, a total of 546,159 people traveled to Georgia from other states. That included 62,440 more daily trips than in the week before the reopenings, Zhang said. Researchers also found 92 percent of those additional trips were people coming from Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida. At the time, Georgia was the only state in the region that allowed entertainment venues to open, in addition to hair salons and barber shops, gyms, and dine-in restaurants.
Fitzpatrick told the Post it will take at least two weeks to see if the higher rate of interstate travel results in more coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths. Read more at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia