Americans have started leaving home even more than before the pandemic, cellphone data shows

Washington Post
March 11, 2021

Americans have begun leaving home more often than before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, reflecting a pent-up desire to venture out as new cases have declined, according to University of Maryland researchers tracking the movement of cellphones.

The number of daily trips per person — when a cellphone moved more than a mile from home — had hovered around 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels since rebounding over the summer. But by mid-February, after a slight slump amid a surge in new cases, the number regularly started to exceed pre-pandemic travel.

By the first week of March, the number of trips surpassed those taken each day in the same week last year, before stay-at-home orders kicked in, by as much as 13.6 percent.

Lorien Abroms, a public health professor at George Washington University, said she suspects people are adding back trips they put off for the past year, now that they feel safer to do so.

“I think people have pent-up energy to get out of the four walls of their house that they’ve looked at day after day for a year now,” Abroms said.

States that are starting to fully reopen, including those like Texas that have lifted all restrictions, also are signaling “that it’s okay to travel and go out and do things you’ve been wanting to do,” she said.

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