Cell Data Grab Points to Fewer COVID Infections When People Stay Home

In yet another example of “other people’s private data are useful,” a study from JAMA Internal Medicine found that when people stay home, rates of COVID-19 go down. This seems pretty obvious.

How did the researchers get this information? By tracking Americans’ phone use for 5 months. They used “publicly available de-identified cell phone activity and location data.” Uh-huh. Deidentified. The “deidentified” data came from 2,740 counties across the United States.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to crawl across the U.S., people stopped using their phones in workplaces or public places like stores, subway stations and restaurants. At the same time, cell use at home picked up, at first mostly in places with the highest rates of infection. After 2 weeks, COVID-19 rates were lowest in the areas where people had stopped calling from work or public areas and instead were calling from home.

Cell phone use in groceries and parks was not strongly linked to increases in COVID-19 infections. The authors think taking more of our cell phone location data could be used to help figure out the next COVID-19 hotspots and what areas should be shut down next.

It’s all about that “safety.” Or control, one or the other. We are probably safer in prisons, too.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. Do not take action based solely on this article and always consult with an appropriate healthcare professional. This article is purely for informational purposes.

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