How Fast Are People Returning to Pre-COVID Lifestyles?

I mentioned the other day that all projections of coronavirus spread going forward are based on estimates of how well various social distancing restrictions work. For things like school closures, this is easy to measure: schools are either open or closed, and we know the dates of both. Other things are not so easy. You can open up restaurants, for example, but that only matters if people actually start coming back. Are they? Here’s some data from OpenTable:

Oklahoma is in a league by itself for some reason, but aside from that there’s about a dozen states where restaurant reservations have increased by 15-25 percentage points since May 1. Likewise, there are a dozen or so where there’s been essentially no increase at all. This real-life data is what we need in order to figure out how compliance with (in this case) restaurant closures correlates with COVID-19 cases a few weeks later.

Headlines can provide another sense of what’s happening now that social distancing restrictions are being relaxed:

Not so good! And I can report from my morning walk that I saw only one other person wearing a mask. This was outside on a non-crowded path, so I don’t think there’s any real harm, but two weeks ago more than half my fellow walkers were wearing masks. On the other hand, in my local supermarket mask-wearing is near universal—though most likely because the supermarket itself requires it.

Anyway, both data and anecdotes suggest to me that nothing surprising is going on. We know the dates that various state governments have lifted restrictions, but we have only weak evidence of how quickly people are returning to their old lifestyle. My best guess is that it takes a couple of weeks for lifestyle changes to get to the point where they’re causing more infections, and another couple of weeks for death rates to start increasing. That’s just an amateur guess, though.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate