Quarantine Fatigue: first-ever decrease in social distancing measures after the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak before reopening United States

06/05/2020
by   Jun Zhao, et al.
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By the emergence of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China, and its rapid outbreak worldwide, the infectious illness has changed our everyday travel patterns. In this research, our team investigated the changes in the daily mobility pattern of people during the pandemic by utilizing an integrated data panel. To incorporate various aspects of human mobility, the team focused on the Social Distancing Index (SDI) that was calculated based on five basic mobility measures. SDI patterns showed a plateau stage in the beginning of April that lasted for about two weeks. This phenomenon then followed by a universal decline of SDI, increased number of trips and reduction in percentage of people staying at home. We called the latter observation: Quarantine Fatigue. The Rate of Change (ROC) method was employed to trace back the start date of quarantine fatigue which was indicated to be April 15th. Our analysis showed that despite substantial differences between states, most states' residents started experiencing a quarantine fatigue phenomenon in the same period. This observation became more important by knowing that none of the states had officially announced the reopening until late April showing that people decide to loosen up their social distancing practices before the official reopening announcement. Moreover, our analysis indicated that official reopening led to a faster decline in SDI, raising the concern of a second wave of outbreak. The synchronized trend among states also emphasizes the importance of a more nationwide decision making attitude for the future as the condition of each state depends on the behavior of other states.

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