Earlier this week Unacast, a foundation that focuses on location data, released a report detailing how well the United States is social distancing by county.
Many counties in Southern West Virginia did not fare so well on the report, scoring an average of a D minus, meaning that people in the state are traveling often, even with a stay at home order in place.
Greg Puckett, the Mercer County Commissioner, spoke shared his thoughts with us on the lack of social distancing in the state.
“The fact is that we’ve got a crisis right now that we’ve never seen before. So if we don’t start taking things seriously, then we could be dealing with this for a very long time,” he said.
The report uses shared cell phone location data. If you use any app that tracks your location, chances are your data was averaged into the report. Much of the data showed that only a few counties in West Virginia were doing well to reduce travel.
“The data was pretty fascinating because it does track your cell phones and activity. But it also shows that people are moving and they’re very mobile and going all over the place. So we need to make sure that we tell people to stay home and that’s exactly what we should do.”
One issue with travel restriction in West Virginia is food deserts. Many people need to travel miles just to get to a grocery store. And as a result, many people go to that same store frequently, increasing the amount of contact they have with others.
“When you have that and you have one location that people may have to go to. What it does is that it puts that crowding into that area as well.”
Social distancing has proven to be a sore spot so far for West Virginia. The governor’s stay at home order implies that people should stay home unless absolutely necessary. But, what is and isn’t necessary can often be a blurry line.
The best way for everyone to stay safe is to practice social distancing. If you go to the store, keep six feet away from others, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands frequently.