Fort Bend County residents are strongly practicing social distancing by traveling less during this coronavirus outbreak, according to a Houston-area study.
When Fort Bend County enacted its stay-at-home order on March 24, travel in the county dropped 45%, the most in the Houston area, according to a study done by the Houston Advanced Research Center and the Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research.
The HARC used smartphone location data to track residents in Fort Bend, Harris, Galveston, Waller and Montgomery counties from Feb.24 to April 1 to study the environmental effects and if social distancing is working in Houston.
According to data from the Unacast COVID-19 Location Data Toolkit, travel in Fort Bend County peaked around March 11, the same day the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 was a pandemic and President Trump gave an address in the Oval Office and suspended travel from Europe to the U.S.
Fort Bend’s travel dropped to -16% on March 14 and continued to drop steadily to -20% on March 21, days after Fort Bend County closed restaurants and bars and limited them to takeout or delivery only.
Travel went up slightly, but dipped down to -55% on March 25, a 61% drop from five days before.
Travel in all counties already was trending downward when Gov. Greg Abbott closed schools and nonessential businesses, such as in-dining restaurants, bars and gyms. Since then, the greatest reduction has been in Fort Bend County (-45%) and lowest in Waller County (-18%) — the only county that didn’t tell residents to stay home, the study said.
While no data was available for Fort Bend County, the study concludes that 4,500 lives may have been saved in Harris County between March 24 and April 6, based on epidemiologists’ COVID-19 models.
Fort Bend County saw high travel from March 5 to March 10, mostly because it was during spring break.