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McCreary gets an “F” in social distancing

How are McCreary Countians adapting to stay at home orders due to the COVID-19 outbreak? Not well it seems to one data tracking company.

Unacast, a company that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data launched a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that grades, county by county, which residents are changing behavior at the urging of health officials. It uses the reduction in the total distance we travel as a rough index for whether we’re staying put at home.

The data shows McCreary Countians have reduced their normal travel by less than 45 percent, earning an “F” grade by the data tracking company.

McCreary’s grade was a “D” as late as last week, but after the first of the month travel distances spiked, lowering the grade.

While the grades may be harsh, as the data shows a significant decrease in travel since before the outbreak, the company regards any change of less than 10 percent as an “F.” The data also does not  pick up on whether people are staying at least six feet apart, a central tenet of social distancing. But the company says it is exploring adding layers to its view, including a change in the number of locations visited.

Nearby Whitley and Scott (TN) counties received an “F” grade, while Pulaski and Wayne earned a “D-“.

Fayette and Jefferson counties, areas hardest hit with the virus, show the biggest reduction in travel, earning grades of “B-“ and “C” respectively.

Kentucky, as a whole, also earns a “D”

Unacast, assigns letter grades to counties and states based on how much residents have changed their movements on a specific date compared to what’s typical on that day of the week. If many people in an area used to commute daily to work but now are leaving the house only for visits to the grocery store, the data would show a big reduction in travel distance.

Unacast’s location data comes from games, shopping and utility apps that tens of millions of Americans have installed on their phones — information the company normally analyzes for retailers, real estate firms and marketers. The data has not been vetted by public health authorities or epidemiologists and should be taken with a grain of salt.

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