By comparing Twitter data from before and after the COVID-19 outbreak, Johns Hopkins University researchers found a profound impact on the movement of Americans—indicating social distancing recommendations are having an effect.

A team lead by computer scientist Mark Dredze created the Twitter Social Mobility Index by measuring public geotagged data from Twitter—tweets with users’ current location attached—from March 16 to March 29 and compared it to similar data from Jan. 1, 2019, to March 16, 2020. They found that the movement of Americans during the COVID-19 outbreak dropped significantly—just 52% of what it had been. In some states, people’s movement did not change much, but in those with firm social distancing measures in place, the reductions were more dramatic.

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