Arkansans receive failing grade for social distancing

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Arkansans are receiving a failing grade for practicing social distancing according to a study performed by Unacast, a cellular data analysis company.

The initial ranking was a D -, along with many other southern states, the data shows residents are not practicing appropriate social distancing and are not abiding by the requests set forth by the government.

The original ranking was released the week of March 30, however; a new ranking of “F” was released on Monday, April 6. Arkansas and Alabama were the only two listed with the lowest grade.

“According to the World Health Organization and the CDC, social distancing is currently the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. We created this interactive scoreboard, updated daily, to empower organizations to measure and understand the efficacy of social distancing initiatives at the local level,” a representative of Unacast wrote.

The data is gathered over a period of time and according to the site, has a four-day lag time to ensure the data collected gives an accurate picture.

“...We collect and process enough data to produce an accurate picture of human mobility for any given day. Since time is of the essence in the fight against COVID-19, we are currently working to reduce the lag time without compromising the quality or integrity of our insights,” the representative wrote.

Sharp County initially received a D-, while Fulton and Izard counties each received an F on the grading scale.

The company which released the scores or grades, has partnered with epidemiologists and public health academics, to create a platform which can be easily understood.

As there is not much to compare it to prior to the beginning of the study, grades are assigned by the decline of travel as suggested by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control.

“In our initial phase, we used the US county with the strongest reduction in distance traveled — our original metric — as a baseline for setting the grading system. However, this soon proved to be problematic as travel distances were still decreasing in the US and experts argued that more reductions were needed,” the representative wrote. “...The challenge is that we cannot look at history to guide us forward. Mass implementation of social distancing and measuring its results has not been done in modern times, and as a result, there is simply no previous experience in measuring social distancing proxies. As a solution, we look to the learnings from Italy for inspiration. Italy was chosen because it is ahead of the curve compared to the US and strict in its policy measures. Therefore, rather than trying to hit moving targets within the US, Italy provides a more informative baseline for what the bottom in the US could look like.”

As an added precaution, the grading scale was created to provide leeway for the lag time.

Grades are as follows: An A shows a 70 percent or greater decrease; a B shows between 55 and 70 percent decrease; a C shows between 40 and 55 percent decrease; a D shows between a 25 and 40 percent decrease, while F shows less than a 25 percent decrease.

The study also took into account the guidelines issued by each state government and took time to categorize venues into essential and non-essential.

Essential locations included grocery stores, pharmacies, pet stores and more while non essential locations included restaurants, clothing stores, jewelers, electronic stores, movie theaters and more.

Grades were also issued for the volume of increased or decreased travel to those locations as well but the scale was more strict with the grade of an F showing less than a 55 percent decrease; a D showing between a 55 and 60 percent decrease and rising by 15 points for each category until an A was reached at a 70 percent or better decrease.

The scoreboard is updated each week on the Unicast.com website and more information is available about the system, rankings and changes taking place as new orders are issued in each state.

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