Best and Worst States at Social Distancing Revealed

Social distancing measures following the novel coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. have reportedly been best practiced in Nevada, Vermont and in the capital, Washington, D.C., while people in South Carolina have been the least compliant, according to a new survey looking at changes in residents' distance traveled, non-essential visits and encounters with other people in the past month.

A scoreboard devised by Unacast measured three criteria to give each state a "social distancing score." The criteria include the percent changes in average distance traveled (average mobility), non-essential visitations, and "encounters density" which looks at the decrease in human encounters (compared with the national baseline), among residents in each state between February 24 and April 26.

For the three criteria each state was scored between A (the highest score) and F (the lowest score). An average of the three criteria scores was taken to give each state an overall social distancing score between A and F.

Outlined below are the percent changes for each criteria for each letter score.

Percent Change in Average Distance Traveled (Average Mobility)

  • A: over 70 percent decrease
  • B: 55-70 percent decrease
  • C: 40-55 percent decrease
  • D: 25-40 percent decrease
  • F: less than 25 percent decrease

Percent Change in Non-essential Visitations

  • A: over 70 percent decrease
  • B: 65-70 percent decrease
  • C: 60-65 percent decrease
  • D: 55-60 percent decrease
  • F: less than 55 percent decrease

Percent Change Human Encounters (Compared with National Baseline)

  • A: over 94 percent decrease
  • B: 82-94 percent decrease
  • C: 74-82 percent decrease
  • D: 40-74 percent decrease
  • F: over 40 percent decrease

The U.S. received an overall social distancing score of C-. On average, the country saw a 40-55 percent reduction in average mobility, a 50-60 percent reduction in non-essential visits, and 70-82 percent reduction in human encounters in roughly the past month.

The country appeared to have the highest scores for all three criteria on April 12, including a score of B for average mobility, indicating a 50-70 percent reduction in average distance traveled.

The change in non-essential visitations on April 12 was scored at A, with an over 70 percent decrease in non-essential visits.

The reduction in human encounters was scored at B, showing a 82-94 percent decrease on April 12.

In the days prior to April 12, confirmed cases in the U.S. surpassed 500,000 on April 10 and the country's death toll became the highest in the world on April 11, surpassing Italy's death count. The U.S. death toll surpassed 15,000 on April 9, according Johns Hopkins University.

Nevada scored the highest in the ranking of states best at social distancing, with an overall score of B+. It was followed by Vermont (B-) in second place, tied with Washington, D.C. which also scored B-. Hawaii, Pennsylvania and New York, each scored C+ and joined the top five states with the highest scores.

New York, the country's worst-hit state, recently saw an over 70 percent reduction in non-essential visits and a 50-77 percent reduction in average mobility on April 26. However, the state reported a less than 40 percent decrease in human encounters on April 26.

At the other end of the scale, South Carolina received a score of F, making it the worst state at practicing social distancing. The state was followed by Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Mississippi, which each earned D- in the social distancing scoreboard.

Top 10 States Best at Social Distancing

(according to Unacast)

  1. Nevada (B+)
  2. Vermont (B-)
  3. Hawaii (C+)
  4. Pennsylvania (C+)
  5. New York (C+)
  6. New Jersey (C+)
  7. North Dakota (C)
  8. New Mexico (C)
  9. Maine (C)
  10. Arizona (C)

Top 10 States Worst at Social Distancing

(according to Unacast)

  1. South Carolina (F)
  2. Georgia (D-)
  3. North Carolina (D-)
  4. Tennessee (D-)
  5. Ohio (D-)
  6. Alabama (D-)
  7. Louisiana (D-)
  8. Arkansas (D-)
  9. Missouri (D-)
  10. Oklahoma (D-)

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the states with the most COVID-19 cases across the U.S.

coronavirus U.S. states
U.S. states with most COVID-19 cases. Statista

Lockdown measures and the potential reopening of states has sparked heated debate across the country in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman faced criticism when she noted that she assumes everybody is a novel coronavirus carrier without symptoms but wants to reopen Las Vegas anyway.

In an interview with MSNBC, Goodman said she wanted to "get our people back to work," having previously called Nevada's non-essential business shutdowns "total insanity" despite the rising number of cases and deaths.

Georgia, which has 25,137 confirmed cases and over 1,000 deaths to date, began reopening businesses last week despite not having met the reopening criteria outlined by the White House.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp began lifting restrictions on Friday, allowing barbershops, hair salons, bowling alleys and movie theaters to resume operations and restaurants to offer dine-in services.

Huntington Beach, California, coronavirus, April 2020
People enjoy the beach amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Huntington Beach, California on April 25, 2020. Getty Images

Various business owners and other locals have protested against state lockdown measures across the country, including in North Carolina, where nearly 350 demonstrators gathered outside the General Assembly in Raleigh, the state capital, on Tuesday.

At least three arrests were made at the protest, with all three charged with violation of an executive order and resisting a public officer, ABC7 reports.

Protests were also held last week in the South Carolina capital of Columbia and Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.

The Missouri rally saw many protesters without face masks ignoring social distancing guidelines. While the rally was in violation of the state's stay-at-home order, no arrests were made by police at the protest, ABC17 reported.

This past weekend, tens of thousands flocked to the beaches of Southern California during a heat wave, ignoring social distancing guidelines issued by California. The move was condemned by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said at a press conference Monday: "This virus doesn't go home because it's a beautiful, sunny day around our coasts."

The novel coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, has infected over 3.1 million people across the globe, including more than a million in the U.S. At least 227,600 have died, while more than 973,400 have recovered from infection, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the U.S.

Coronavirus COVID-19 United States Statista
Spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.