Reshaping a nation: Mobility, commuting, and contact patterns during the COVID-19 outbreak

Brennan Klein, Timothy LaRock, Stefan McCabe, Leo Torres, Lisa Friedland, Filippo Privitera, Brennan Lake, Moritz U. G. Kraemer, John S. Brownstein, David Lazer, Tina Eliassi-Rad, Samuel V. Scarpino, Alessandro Vespignani, and Matteo Chinazzi


In March 2020, many state and local governments in the United States enacted stay-at-home policies banning mass gatherings, closing schools, and promoting remote working. By analyzing anonymized location data from millions of mobile devices, we quantify how much people have reduced their daily mobility and physical contacts in accordance with these guidelines. At the regional level, we measure declines in daily commute volume as well as transit between major urban areas. At the individual level, we measure changes in the average user’s daily range of mobility, number of unique contacts, and number of co-location events. According to these five measures, we estimate that the average person in the United States had reduced their daily mobility by between 45-55% as of late April, 2020, and had reduced their daily contacts between 65-75%. The United States’ physical distancing guidelines expired on April 30, 2020 and are not set to be renewed; as of early May, 2020, we report increases in mobility and contact patterns across most states (up to 10-14%, compared to the last week of April), though we do not observe a commensurate increase in commute volume. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has amounted to one of the largest disruptions of economic, social, and mobility behavior in history, and quantifying these disruptions is vital for forecasting the further spread of this pandemic and crafting our collective response.

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