Tech company keeps tabs on how people socially isolate across the country

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A tech company is monitoring smartphone data and grading American counties on a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” as authorities across the United States urge residents to socially isolate and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Unacast, which describes itself as “an award-winning location data and analytics firm,” said in a post on its website that the data is collected from “tens of millions” of mobile phones. It released the scoreboard last week.

The interactive, color-coded chart is broken down by state and by county. It’s updated daily with a comparison of how much distance people in each location are traveling now and how much they did before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Unacast founder and CEO Thomas Walle said the company chose this metric over several different statistics after some testing.

“The metric correlates well with the number of confirmed cases: the more cases are confirmed, the greater the decrease in the average distance traveled on the county level,” he wrote.

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Galveston County in Texas scored a B rating for its residents’ “30 to 40 percent decrease in average distance traveled.”

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s Chester County, south of Charleston, scored an F for a less than 10 percent decrease.

Galveston has seen 70 confirmed cases, while Chester has just two, according to the scoreboard.

Fog lifts over Chicago and the usually busy Columbus Drive, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, on the second work day since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a shelter in place order last week due to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Fog lifts over Chicago and the usually busy Columbus Drive, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, on the second work day since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a shelter in place order last week due to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The boroughs making up New York City, which have seen a combined number of more than 37,000 cases, received A grades for a decrease in travel over 40 percent.

Unacast says its COVID-19 monitoring tools do not identify individuals, devices or households. It is offering the data “pro bono” to benefit public health experts, lawmakers, businesses and others.

The Sacramento Bee reviewed scoreboard data for California and reported that people in low-income, rural counties there were dramatically less likely to cut down on their travel than people in wealthy urban areas.

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But the effects of the virus have spanned the country, with the White House and individual states issuing guidelines and orders aimed at stopping the spread. Many of them ask Americans to self-isolate, avoid unnecessary travel and keep their hands and frequently used surfaces clean.

A passerby walks through a nearly empty intersection near the Old State House, center right, in downtown Boston, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Many people are working from home in the state, while many businesses have closed indefinitely out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

A passerby walks through a nearly empty intersection near the Old State House, center right, in downtown Boston, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Many people are working from home in the state, while many businesses have closed indefinitely out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“If you feel sick, stay home,” the latest Trump administration guidelines urge.

There were at least 184,183 confirmed cases across the U.S. as of Tuesday evening. At least 3,721 have died from the virus in the country.