Here’s why coronavirus is still spreading even though most of us are stuck at home

  • The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a steady increase of new cases around the US for weeks now.
  • That might seem counterintuitive at first, when you consider that officials instituted draconian measures around the US to limit the spread of the virus, such as business closures and stay-at-home orders.
  • Here’s a look at why the number of coronavirus cases has continued to climb.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

One of the things about the coronavirus pandemic that might surprise you, when you think about it, is the way cases have been on a pretty steady incline for weeks now, in spite of the fact that most of the US has been (and still is) subject to stay-at-home orders in order to clamp down on the spread of the virus. Moreover, the latest data shows that the COVID-19 virus is still growing at something like 2% to 4% every day.

To add some additional context to how much things are still increasing, a new report with data from the Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) suggests that coronavirus cases in the US (which as of Thursday morning stand at more than 1.2 million) could reach 2.3 million by the end of June — even with current lockdown measures in place, which, of course, won’t happen since some of those are already being lifted. Again, though, you might be asking yourself why the numbers are steadily rising in spite of the draconian clampdown measures the US has taken in recent weeks.

There’s actually not a single reason why we’re seeing a spike in case numbers right now in around half the country, including in states like Illinois and Alabama, which comes at the same time cases are finally dropping in the hardest-hit areas like New York and New Jersey. The driving forces are everything from people’s impatience when it comes to reopening the economy quickly to how well people did or didn’t adhere to stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines.

Regarding the latter, for example, the latest data shows that there’s been a steady drop in people’s adherence to social distancing guidelines. As we noted yesterday, according to data from mobile phone location data company SafeGraph (based on the locations of about 18 million mobile phones across the US), about 50% of the phones SafeGraph had data on stayed home on April 12, Easter Sunday. However, the number of phones staying home hasn’t been close to that since then, with a decline to less than 40% staying home by April 27.

And even though there are variations in the extent to which this is happening around the country, SafeGraph’s data shows this is happening pretty much across the US.

Another factor is the nation’s reliance on essential workers. It doesn’t matter how well a household adheres to healthy behaviors, social distancing guidelines, and the like, if someone in that household is working at an “essential” business like a grocery store that’s stayed open. If they become infected with the virus, they’ll bring the virus home with them and potentially infect other members of the household.

Many workers are still going to their jobs because they can’t afford not to. “They are afraid of losing their jobs,” J. Luis Nunez Gallegos, an assistant medical director at a health center in Washington, DC, told The Washington Post. “They are anxious their employers won’t respect the quarantine, or that two weeks seems too long, and they don’t always have the savings to get by.”

At the same time, the Trump Administration recently received its projected number of deaths upward. A few weeks ago, that estimate had decreased from 100,000 to 60,000 by the end of August, but deaths are now projected to reach 100,000 by the end of next month.

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