Spring Break vs. COVID-19: Mapping the Real Impact of Ignoring Social Distancing

Yesterday, the United States surpassed China, becoming the world leader in COVID-19 infections. It’s not hard to understand why. Social distancing remains very uneven. Domestic travel continues unchecked. Asymptomatic carriers stay on the move. Starting on the coasts, COVID-19 is now moving inexorably across the nation, coming to a city or town near you.

If you want to get a glimpse of how COVID-19 can spread, watch this clip from Tectonix GEO. It uses data from anonymized mobile devices to trace the movement of Spring Break partiers who congregated at one single Ft. Lauderdale beach, then moved back across the United States, in each case potentially bringing the virus with them. It’s a quick case study showing how an infectious disease can spread through a country that wants to remain mobile come hell, pandemic, or high water.

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Comments (15)
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  • Rick says:

    This article isn’t as claimed to “show how an infectious disease can spread”. The data they use for illustration could just as well illustrate how cell phone signals can be monitored and publicized without implied consent by their owner/users. The main thrust of the article is a criticism of young graduating American behavior specifically, and a jab at American psyche in general.

  • Tom M says:

    More infections than China…. riiiiiight.

  • Guy says:

    👏🏼👏🏼 – I expected better from “Open Culture.” But if you’re not sharing “FEAR! DOOM! DEATH! ANXIETY! THE END IS NIGH!! REPEEEEENNNT!!!! COVID-19!!” content now, well you’re just doing it all wrong…

  • Raymond Hutfles says:

    Hate to tell you this Tom but that is correct. China’s rate has been decreasing while the U.S. is still expanding.

  • Brion23 says:

    Wow! What would be the right way Gary? Apparently the first three posters have an agenda that will lead to more deaths. Trump=Death, GOP=Death. Thank you OC for the honest and correct post!

  • W.O. Brisco says:

    And you believe China’s self-reported numbers because….????

  • Ches says:

    That was my thought – where are they getting this data and how on earth do they have permission, even though it may (or may not – we don’t really know for sure) be anonymous, to obtain and use it?

  • Dave says:

    The WHO has been on the ground in China since Feb. Clearly the official numbers from Wuhan were complete BS in Dec/Jan but with outside monitoring and actual front-line MDs reporting, I expect the numbers from China are certainly *as good as* the numbers from the USA. Which is to say… ballpark and highly imprecise. Without 100% testing we are still all just guessing.

  • Jim says:

    When was the last time you read the TOS for your mobile plan? Pretty sure we have all given them permission to the data…

  • Victor G. says:

    ” … anonymized mobile devices … ” Whew! I was worried for a second there!

    Nice site but well and deeply infiltrated by the same people who brought you The Summer of Love.

    Rip it off to the max!

  • Charles H. says:

    China imprisoned its doctors for text messaging about COVID. What ABSOLUTE MORON would believe the numbers they’re putting out now?

    Well, I guess this thread provides the answer.

  • Rene B says:

    Honestly, I don’t give a rat’s a$$ what China is doing or saying. But I am exhausted with the self-centered nature of today’s youth, the continual lack of willingness to participate willingly in self-quarantining, the petulant whining about the hardships and the politicizing of a pandemic that just might cause the death of you or your family. I’ve made it to 71 in spite of hippies, LSD, Vietnam, Watergate, Aids, Monica, 911, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, mortgage/securities fraud and now this! I’d dearly love to reach 72. So shut the he!! up and stay the fu** at home!

  • Kate says:

    I love you Renee. I’m 65 and understand that this is a serious crisis but there will always be serious crisis. My biggest concern is the generation of pandered to and unprepared for anything that resembles responsibility is going to be quite a shocker when the next one hits.

  • brenda says:

    Because China banned all foreign journalists…

  • Elise Krentzel says:

    As long as people decide to ignore the warning signs and congregate in groups of more than 10 actually more than five they are at risk and they were at risk of putting anyone else at risk so stay in

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