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Wisconsin receives “D” grade for social distancing

The grade comes from data compiled by national analysts on how well states have reduced gatherings and travel.
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 10:47 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and continuous public health warnings, people are out and about almost as much as they were before the pandemic began.

Wisconsin received a “D” grade on Friday for social distancing. Unacast is a company that gathers mobility data and publishes a social distancing scoreboard, giving each state a grade for how well people are avoiding gatherings and travel since the pandemic.

Friday’s “D” is down from a “C-”, Unacast reported for Wisconsin the day before. UW-Madison researcher are also tracking this and agree that movement among Wisconsinites is close to what it was pre-pandemic.

Professor Song Gao, researcher at the UW Geospatial Data Science Lab says he’s part of a team partnering with different data vendors that track location based service apps. Through a grant, this research is able to track and help analyze travel distance using cell phone mobility data.

Prof. Gao says at the start of the pandemic, the data shows that people reduced movement and close contacts but in September and October, the numbers went back up.

“Based on the science we think this can partially explain some of the recent surge in cases,” said Prof. Gao.

In all, DHS has tallied 344,945 cases since the pandemic began. The average number of people in Wisconsin dying from complications related to COVID-19 keeps increasing and shows few signs of slowing down soon, new Dept. of Health Services numbers show.

Prof. Gao says the average travel distance in Wisconsin is more than roughly seven miles. In comparison, during Gov. Evers’ Safer at Home order, travel distance stood at less than a mile on average.

Health officials say their advice hasn’t changed. People are urged to mask up, reduce travel, and avoid gatherings, especially ahead of the upcoming holiday season.

“I understand the people’s frustrations of being secluded, lonely, and wanting to travel but we need to be smart and responsible over the holiday season,” said Dr. David Ottenbaker, SSM Health Vice President of Primary Care Services.

Dr. Ottenbaker says SSM Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients.

“There have been very few patient to physician spread here. This is all community spread and we must be vigilant to keep our guard up,” said Ottenbaker.

UW researchers say the first week of November movement slowed again but data from Labor Day shows that the holidays could change those numbers.

People are encouraged to stay home and only celebrate the holidays with members of their immediate household.

Dr. Ottenbaker says on the bright side, vaccines are getting closer to being complete and there’s hope that things will turn around for the better soon.

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