6

In Europe, such comparisons have been published based on data by Google, so I suspect it might available for the US too. E.g.

An analysis here of smartphone location data by the U.S. search engine giant showed that visits to shops, parks or railway stations fell steeply in most European countries between Feb. 16 and March 29 as governments sought to slow the explosive spread of the COVID-19 disease.

In Italy and Spain, which have imposed near-total lockdowns on public life, retail and recreational trips were down by 94%. The two Mediterranean countries, along with France, saw the sharpest drops in people passing through transportation hubs like railway or metro stations. Visits to workplaces were down by more than 60% in Italy and Spain, in an indication that their lockdowns may turn out to be the most economically disruptive.

To the north, Sweden has by contrast sought to minimise disruption to social and economic life while its caseload remains low. Visits to restaurants, shopping centres and cinemas, for example, have declined by just 24%. Numbers going to grocery markets and pharmacies have fallen by 10%, while trips to the park are actually up by 43% as people head out to enjoy the Scandinavian spring. Going out for a walk or a jog is up in Denmark, Estonia and Finland too.

The number of people spending more time in residential areas is up by 5% in Sweden, whereas in Italy and Spain it has increased by 24% and 22% respectively as people are confined to their homes.

In Britain, which moved relatively late to restrict people-to-people contacts, the impact has been less severe than in southern Europe. Retail and recreation visits are down by 85%, public transport by 75% and time spent in workplaces by 55%.

Germany, which has the third-highest caseload but a relatively low number of fatalities thanks to widespread early testing for COVID-19, has taken a less radical approach with the number of people visiting workplaces down by 39%, the data show.

Are there such (comparative) statistics available for US states? E.g. did these numbers fall in NY (which was hardest hit by the pandemic) more than elsewhere in the US?

10

Yes, Google has published these statistics at a per-state level for the United States.

To use the example in your question of New York, compared with a state with far fewer COVID-19 cases currently, such as West Virginia, we can see that New York has seen large reductions in mobility trends across every category except Residential, while West Virginia has relatively smaller reductions, and in fact a large increase in mobility trends for parks.

This seems to be similar across the board, with the statistics for Nebraska, with a similar number of cases as West Virginia also showing smaller reductions in most categories, a smaller increase in Residential mobility trends, and a whopping 109% increase in mobility trends to parks. New Jersey, however, another state which has been fairly badly hit, sees a large reduction in the statistics across the board.

At a first glance, then, this would seem to support your theory that these numbers fell more significantly within states that have been hardest hit by the pandemic so far, meaning that social distancing measures are being complied with and taken more seriously in these states. Further analysis would need to be performed on the full data set, including the range of social distancing regulations and enforcement levels in the individual states in order to draw full conclusions.

Google themselves state in their reports that "Location accuracy and the understanding of categorized places varies from region to region, so we don’t recommend using this data to compare changes between countries, or between regions with different characteristics (e.g. rural versus urban areas)."

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3

There are comparative data sets, I like the very current set at https://github.com/CSSEGISandData/COVID-19. But there's an issue with trying to compare one state against another, no 2 states are doing exactly the same things with regard to isolation. A second issue creeps in when the federal government has been a non-factor in standardizing the approaches we take. Even with the most strictest of lockdowns, tourism still happens - families still get together, friends visit friends in areas with little to no policy and then return. It's a lot like having a peeing section in a swimming pool, and that makes measuring the effectiveness of any state's policy nearly impossible.

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