Location-tracking reveals lockdown fatigue

If you ventured outside on Tuesday for the Blue Angels-thunderbirds flyover or for a few moments to lounge in the sun, you likely saw the rest of New York City outside, too. New Yorkers seemed tired of being cooped up. They are fatigued by the idea of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you're fighting the urge to end your own self-isolation, Dr. Ben Michaelis says that what you're really doing is fighting evolution. He says we are "social animals" and we naturally want to be around each other and share experiences.

The good doctor's theory and the concept of social distancing fatigue are backed by hard data. The University of Maryland-College Park's Transportation Institute has been tracking location data from cell phone apps since the country went into lockdown. People were staying home--until they weren't. 


Lei Zhang, the institute's director, said the data showed that things were going really well, especially in New York. Most people were only traveling for an essential reason. But then on April 14, the Tuesday after Easter, he saw a drop in social distancing behavior.

In the last two weeks, as the weather has warmed and cabin fever has taken hold, so, too, has the desire to get and stay outside. Zhang said social distancing dropped by 8%.


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