According to recent research by academics from Harvard University, Princeton University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), in collaboration with geospatial data company SafeGraph, an average of a 10% decline in travel mobility correlates to a 17-27% drop in COVID-19 cases per capita.
“The results in our study highlight the importance of mitigating mobility during this pandemic, working from home if possible and avoiding unnecessary travel,” said Caitlin Gorback, economist and postdoctoral fellow at NBER.
To conduct the study, research teams from Harvard and Princeton examined data from zip codes in New York City and cross-sectional data for four other U.S. cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago; information regarding mobility from SafeGraph cellphone data; and considerations of mobility for remote workers and essential workers during state shutdown orders. The SafeGraph data highlighted cellphone trips for the cities in question, in addition to indicating the volume of visitors to a point of interest in a given week.
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“Without this data, we would not have been able to accurately measure population mobility at a zip code level — a degree of granularity [that] is critical to an empirical investigation of the spread of COVID-19 within cities,” Gorback said.
Other key findings indicate that areas with less travel saw fewer COVID-19 cases, including total cases per capita reduced on average by 20% for every 10% decrease in mobility. Meanwhile, remote workers saw a larger average decline of COVID-19 cases per capita of 27%.