Tampa Bay counties earn ‘D’ and ‘F’ grades for social distancing

By The Numbers

On Clearwater Beach. Pic taken 5/4/20

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Bay counties have gotten worse at social distancing since COVID-19 began impacting the community, a new study found.

Using GPS data from cell phones in conjunction with coronavirus updates from the Johns Hopkins’ GitHub repository, Unacast.com found that most Tampa Bay area residents are still very mobile and did not take the governor’s safer-at-home order seriously.

Each county was graded on three factors:

  • Percentage of change in average distance traveled
    • A: > 70% decrease
    • B: 55-70% decrease
    • C: 40-55% decrease
    • D: 25-40% decrease
    • F: < 25% decrease or increase
  • Percentage change in non-essential visitation
    • A: > 70% decrease
    • B: 65-70% decrease
    • C: 60-65% decrease
    • D: 55-60% decrease
    • F: < 55% decrease or increase
  • Percent of decrease in human encounters compared to the national baseline
    • A: > 94%
    • B: 82%-94%
    • C: 74%-82%
    • D: 40%-74%
    • F: < 40%

When the first version of the report came out in late March – prior to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ safer-at-home order going into effect on April 3 – Hillsborough and Pinellas counties seemed to be doing well in terms of social distancing and limiting travel. Both earned a “B” and had 30 and 40 percent decreases in travel at the time.

Just over a month later, local residents are likely getting restless. That could explain why grades in those counties as well as many others in the area, have dropped significantly.

The highest grade across the 10 counties surrounding and including Tampa Bay was a “D,” coming out of Hardee County. Hardee went weeks without any reported coronavirus cases.

Pinellas County earned a “D-” and came in a close second. But all other counties – Citrus, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Polk and Sarasota – received “F” for the low percentage of change in travel based on the mobile data.

Florida as a whole received an “F” with less than 55 percent reduction in non-essential visits. The state also saw just a 25-40 percent reduction in average distance traveled.

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