Data show South Florida, Central Florida residents stay at home most

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Where are people sheltering in place? Survey says Miami-Dade, Seminole, Broward, Orange.

A new GPS-driven model to determine who’s staying home and who’s not finds that residents of South Florida and Central Florida counties are getting out the least, while residents in a handful of rural counties are getting out the most.

The new “Shelter in Place Index: The Impact of Coronavirus on Human Movement” released by data analysis consulting firm SafeGraph finds that people who live in areas hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak tend to be the ones trying hardest to shelter at home.

That holds true both on a national scale looking at states, and on a more targeted scale looking at counties.

No Florida counties rank among the nation’s most homebound, but a few are in the top quartile.

Overall, Florida residents have done better than those in most states when it comes to sheltering at home, though not top-10 better.

Nobody’s staying home more than New Jersey residents, which may currently have the nation’s worst outbreak, with more than 95,000 infections, 5,000 deaths, and rising numbers while New York’s crisis seems to have leveled off. SafeGraph’s rolling seven-day index for New Jersey residents is 31.03.

It’s a score that the company calculates based on tracking GPS apps on smartphones to find out how much residents are leaving their homes, over the most recent Sunday-to-Saturday week, compared with a normal yearlong baseline average measured before March. The index numbers represent the percent of the population staying home each day.

The research is similar to others being produced and published by Google, The New York Times, and data processing company Unicast, using software to track millions of smartphones and other devices to see who is moving about and where they are going.

In SafeGraph’s effort, which the company said it is making public for free to help researchers, academics, nonprofits, and governments, New York has the next highest stay-at-home index, at 26.10; followed by Massachusetts, 25.40; Maryland, 24.73; Connecticut, 23.66; Rhode Island, 23.66; Michigan, 23.23; California, 22.47; Pennsylvania, 22.14; and Illinois, 22.12.

All 10 of those states’ governors have imposed significant statewide stay-at-home orders.

Florida’s score is 19.97, SafeGuard’s highest stay-at-home index of any state in the South.

Arkansas has the nation’s lowest stay-at-home index, at 10.13. Then come Montana, 11.31; Alabama, 11.76; Maine, 11.84; and Mississippi, 11.87.

In Florida, SafeGraph’s data give Miami-Dade County residents a score of 26.44 for sheltering at home, the best in Florida, based on a seven-day average through last Saturday.

That’s followed by Seminole County, 25.86; Broward County, 25.62; Orange County, 24.07; St. Johns County, 23.87; Osceola County, 23.80; and Palm Beach County, 23.67.

Miami-Dade also has the state’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, followed by Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange, all of them with more than 1,000 cases. Seminole’s and Osceola’s outbreaks also are significant, with more than 300 cases each, and they are tied to Orange in the Orlando market. St. Johns has a significant outbreak too, though still under 200 cases as of Wednesday morning.

SafeGraph cautions that its researches have low confidence in indexes for counties with very low populations, and all of Florida’s lowest-scoring counties are quite rural. Glades County got a score of 2.92, and its South Florida neighbor Hardee County, 5.12. In North Florida, Dixie County was given a 5.43 index; Jackson County, 6.50; and Union County, 6.91.

Nationally, the highest county scores are all in New Jersey and New York, where several have indexes higher than 35.

A small handful of counties nationally such as Bradley County, Arkansas, and Clark County, Idaho, got negative index scores, meaning people there actually appear to be getting out more lately than they did before the coronavirus pandemic emerged.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


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