Update on Social Distancing in New York City


By Michiel Bakker, Alex Berke, Matt Groh, Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, and Esteban Moro

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing policies have been issued across the world to reduce the immediate strain on the healthcare system and delay the spread of the virus such that the the healthcare system can better prepare. As of writing on April 14, 2020, New York City has 103,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,700 associated deaths. We looked at anonymous geolocation data from smartphones to answer how well social distancing policy is working in the New York City metropolitan area.

How well are people social distancing?

We prepared an updated report focusing on answering the following three questions: (1) how has social distancing policy changed mobility and social behavior, (2) how does social distancing behavior vary across the physical space of New York City, and (3) how does social distancing behavior vary across demographic groups. We have summarized the main findings below, and you can read the initial draft of the report here.

Updated findings

  • People are largely following social distancing policies

  • We do not observe any difference in the number of contacts across demographic groups

You can read the initial draft of the report here. If you have follow-up questions, please email emoro@mit.edu.