Walker County receives D- for social distancing


Walker County has received a D- for the social distancing efforts of its citizens.

Data company Unacast has ranked every state and county across the United States to give a broad view of how social distancing is being practiced across the country to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Social Distancing Scoreboard data is determined through cell phone location data, which tells data analysts how long people spend at a particular place.

Walker County’s D- grade was determined based on distance traveled and visits to non-essential locations. Walker County received a D (only a 25 to 40 percent decrease) in average mobility based on distance traveled and an F score for non-essential visits (a less than 55 percent decrease). 

To clarify, Unacast deems essential businesses as grocery stores, pharmacies, pet supply stores, etc., while non-essential visits refer to all non-grocery retail goods and services, such as a visit to a park, for example.

“We recognize that the differentiation between essential and non-essential is not hard-and-fast, nor is it the same in all places,” the company states on its website.

Alabama’s overall scores are identical to those in Walker County.

A graph breakdown on the Unacast website shows that Walker Countians didn’t decrease their travel or visits to non-essential locations until March 16.

Walker County’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed a few days later, on March 19. 

On March 22, data shows Walker Countians had started resuming travel again, and data has been relatively unchanged since.

The data does not reflect travel changes following Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay at home order, however, which went into effect April 4.

“According to the World Health Organization and the CDC, social distancing is currently the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19,” a statement on the Unacast website notes. “We created this interactive scoreboard, updated daily, to empower organizations to measure and understand the efficacy of social distancing initiatives at the local level.”

The United States, overall, has a C score, with over 155,080 COVID-19 cases confirmed on Tuesday.

Unacast notes that scores don’t necessarily indicate COVID-19 may be more widespread in particular areas.

“The metric is a proxy only for changes in the behavior of people - not for the travel path of the virus,” the company states. “Since behavior change is the intention behind social distancing, we can provide direct aggregated feedback to policy makers and community leaders on how well their social distancing measures are being adopted by the general public and if more severe restrictions do lead to a reduction in the number of reported cases of COVID-19.” 

If the data for Alabama is any indication, recommendations to stay at home have not been heeded by many. 

Neighboring Fayette and Cullman counties received F scores, while Winston County, like Walker, also received a D-. Despite the high number of COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County, the county still received a higher score than Walker, a C-.

As of press time Tuesday, 62 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Walker County. Just over 2,150 cases had been reported in Alabama overall.

Data on the Unacast website was last updated Tuesday morning and did not reflect the new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Walker County throughout the day on Tuesday.

Unacast data can be viewed by visiting https://www.unacast.com/covid19/social-distancing-scoreboard.