As the cases of COVID-19 continue to grow in New Jersey, Governor Murphy has repeatedly stressed that we have a tool in our arsenal that can slow the spread. We must practice social distancing. And we all should know what this means— stay home unless you are an essential worker; if you do go out for exercise or to the grocery story stay six feet away from others, and avoid gatherings of any number of people.
It appears that New Jerseyans, for the most part, have been heeding the Governor’s call to social distance. Unacast, a company that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data, just released the “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that shows which residents around the state (and country) are following the guidelines. The data for New Jersey looks promising—overall the state was just one of five in the country to earn an “A” grade in social distancing. (New Jersey is joined by New York, Alaska, Nevada and DC with this overall stellar grade.) And these grades mean something as they translate into specific actions of social distancing. An “A” means there has been more than a 40 percent decrease in social behavior, a “B” means a 30-40 percent decrease, a “C” is a 20-30 percent decrease, a “D” is a 10-20 percent decrease, and “F” is less than 10 percent decrease.
However, there does not seem to be full uniformity within the state of New Jersey regarding social distancing. The Unacast Scorecard allows us to explore the county level of compliance. Out of the twenty-one counties in the state, 12 of them have earned an “A” social distancing grade—they include the northeast counties of Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Union, and Essex; the western counties of Morris and Sussex; Somerset in central NJ; and all four shore counties (Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May). This is quite positive as many of these counties represent some of the largest number of cases in the state.
Six of our counties (Middlesex, Mercer, Hunterdon, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester) all received “B” grades on the Scorecard. Warren county earned a “C” grade. And Cumberland and Salem each earned a “D” and “F” grade respectively.
So what does this data tell us? Overall New Jersey is following guidelines, particularly in the hardest hit counties. And that is good news, both in terms of trying to slow the spread of the virus and also the social responsibility that citizens are taking in their own lives to combat the virus. However we still have work to do. Not all our counties are at the “A” level. Particularly in counties with less cases right now, active social distancing practices can help to mitigate the spread. And perhaps more importantly, the “A” grade does not mean we can stop social distancing. We need to maintain an “A” grade throughout this crisis. That means we not only need to continue what we are doing but go even farther in our social distancing practices. We need to call on others in our local area to social distance and continue to be vigilant in our own practices. Reach out to your friends in the counties that are not at the “A” level yet and encourage them to stay at home. And keep on skyping and facetiming happy hours; working and learning remotely, and minimizing your time outside. There is consensus that social distancing works but we must keep doing it so New Jersey can maintain the “A” grade and try to flatten the curve.