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Ball State Study Uses Cell Phone Data To Show COVID Distancing In Indiana

Published on in Ball State, Community, Health, Local News, Technology
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(Photo: Lauren Chapman / IPBS)

A study by Ball State University has used cell phone location data to show how people’s habits changed during the early portion of the coronavirus pandemic.  As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, Hoosiers began staying in when COVID-19 turned deadly in the state.

The study tracked anonymized cell phone location data in all 92 Indiana counties for nearly two months – March 1 to April 29.  That’s before and after the state’s stay-at-home order was issued on March 23.

(Graph: Ball State University Miller College of Business)

Researchers found that after the first Hoosier COVID-19 death was announced in mid-March, the percent of people leaving their homes dropped dramatically.  Those living in urban counties went out less than those in rural counties, but the difference was never more than about five percentage points.

In continuing to look at more recent cell phone data, researchers say since Indiana entered stage two of its reopening plan on May 4 and started lifting restrictions, visits to places other than grocery stores and gas stations have been steadily increasing.  There was a sharp increase on May 22, when campgrounds were allowed to reopen.

The study has not yet been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.