Nevadans are pretty good at social distancing, new analysis shows

Change in Average Mobility
Change in Average Mobility (Based on Distance Traveled) in Nevada. (Chart by Unacast.)

Nevadans are staying home.

That’s the conclusion one company specializing in “human mobility insight” has come to after analyzing location data from millions of Americans across the United States. The startup Unacast this week released a “Social Distancing Scorecard” tracking changes in the average distance traveled since late last month.

The country overall has seen a 40 percent decrease in average distance traveled, according to their data.

Nevada has seen a 51 percent decrease in average distance traveled.

Here’s what that looks like in chart form:

Change in Average Mobility
Change in Average Mobility (Based on Distance Traveled) in Nevada. (Chart by Unacast.)

From Feb. 28 to March 13, the average distance traveled by Nevadans remained constant despite growing concerns over COVID-19. Then came a swift and severe collapse of the events industry and the first waves of layoffs from the gaming and hospitality industries. On March 15, starting with Wynn and Encore, casinos began voluntarily closing their doors.

Then came March 17 — the day the state took the unprecedented steps of closing all of Nevada’s casinos and urged all “non-essential businesses” to close. Days later that urging became a mandate with law enforcement backing.

Average distance traveled plummeted.

People can’t drive to work if they don’t have a work to drive to. Because of its reliance on the leisure and hospitality industries, the ongoing public health crisis will be devastating to the Nevada economy.

Gov. Steve Sisolak and other elected officials have acknowledged the impact the widespread business closures have but say the extreme measure is necessary to save lives by not overwhelming the state’s already insufficient health care system. Several other states are under similar levels of shutdown.

According to Unacast, Nevada is in the top five states on the ‘social distancing scorecard,’ which assumes that traveling less means people are staying home more and interacting with people less. The District of Columbia, Alaska, New Jersey and Rhode Island were also in the top five. All received A grades.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Wyoming received an F, Montana and Idaho received a D, and New Mexico and Oregon received a C.

The existence of a ‘Social Distancing Scorecard’ based on GPS data tracked by some techytechy company few people have probably ever heard is problematic in its own right. Unacast’s location data comes from apps people have on their smartphones. A Washington Post technology columnist explores how such data has been used by other countries and might possibly be used here to combat coronavirus.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.