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Carroll County gets top marks for social distancing

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social distancing map 20-03-25s

A company is using cellphone data to measure how well residents are social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Carroll County residents were some of the best in the state this week at social distancing, according to a company that tracks cellphone location data.

Social distancing, which refers to increasing the physical space between people, has been identified as one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. Medical experts have recommended people stay at least six feet away from others to help avoid spreading the virus; those recommendations have prompted a variety of restrictions on businesses and large gatherings throughout the state, country and beyond.

A data company that is “building a future where precise and verified human mobility data helps organizations do well and do good” is using cellphone data to measure how well people are doing that — and it turns out Carroll County has high marks compared to the state.

Unacast, a company that generates reports based on cellphone data, has measured how well people in each county and state in the country are “reducing mobility” by determining how much each cellphone holder has traveled, or reduced travel, since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. The company assigns a grade to each county and state based on how much its residents have reduced mobility — a 40 percent or more decrease is an A, a 30-40 percent decrease is a B, and so on.

Carroll County was one of the top three counties in the state showing reduced mobility — it scored at a 55 percent reduction, along with Winneshiek and Mitchell counties.

To create the data, the company initially analyzed how often people are at home versus outside their homes, how many people are gathered in one place compared to before, and the average distance each person travels compared to before the outbreak. Unacast employees later realized the third metric was the best for creating their “Social Distancing Scoreboard,” allowing them to measure how extensively people are switching to working from home, how much people are avoiding non-essential trips such as to entertainment facilities, and how many trips and vacations are canceled.

Overall, Iowa scored a C, with a 29 percent reduction in mobility. The top five states or regions on the scale were Washington, D.C., Alaska, Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island, while the bottom five were Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, with only Wyoming scoring an F. The United States averaged a B grade overall, with a 40 percent change in mobility.

The data does not identify individual people or phones, according to information about the company.

“However to calculate the actual underlying social indexing score we combine tens of millions of anonymous mobile phones and their interactions with each other each day — and then extrapolate the results to the population level,” states information from Unacast.

The more we all understand, the more lives we can save together.”

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