Researchers track spread of virus through social distancing

Posted at 1:35 PM, Jun 26, 2020

As we shield ourselves in any way possible from the novel coronavirus, there are some parts of the country handling social distancing better than others.

“This is a public health problem; it’s not a private health problem,” explained Dr. Bhaskar Chakravorti, who leads the Fletcher Institute for Business at Tufts University. “If I get sick, I could make three other people sick.”

Over the past few months, Dr. Chakravorti and his colleagues have been analyzing mobility data from across the country.

What did he and his team discover?

The top three states who were practicing social distancing the most were New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Nebraska, South Dakota, Arizona were among the worst when it came to practicing social-distancing procedures. Dr. Chakravorti says that has led to higher contagion rates in those areas.

“In this post-pandemic moment, each state is going in somewhat a different direction as far as how it's managing the pandemic,” he added.

In bigger cities with higher rates of infections, the study found that people responded better to restrictions because they could see the impact the coronavirus was having around them. Dr. Chakravorti hopes public health officials use his findings to make more uniform policies nationwide.

“This whole issue of COVID has become a political issue, so even the act of wearing a mask has become a political statement,” he said. “You never want to mix politics with anything. You definitely don’t want to mix it with public health. That’s a dangerous combination.”