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Notre Dame researchers release study on behaviors during COVID-19 pandemic

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- If you stopped going out during the pandemic before ‘stay at home’ orders were even in place, a new study shows you’re not alone.

Two economic researchers at Notre Dame just released a study that shows many people stopped going out due to COVID-19. William Evans and Christopher Cronin were looking at the basic trends of social gatherings, establishment closures, and social distancing.

“What our work does, is sort of takes a look at how much of the decline and economic activity attributes to these governmental orders,” Evans said.

They used data from an organization called Safe Graph that measures foot traffic using geolocation data from 40 million cell-phones. They found that much of the decline in foot traffic at many businesses happened in early March. That’s well before ‘stay at home’ orders took effect. But, right around the time, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. The NBA and NHL stopped their seasons, and even actor Tom Hanks announced, he had the virus.

“Businesses and individuals voluntarily took themselves out of the market, started working from home, didn’t go to restaurants, didn’t go to movie theaters because of the concern of the virus,” Evans said. “In most situations, about 75 percent of the decline is actually attributed to cautionary behavior of the part of citizens.”

Evan said what struck them the most about their findings is how everything started to shut down around the same time period. Now they’re looking into people’s responses as states start to open back up.

“There is a general upward trend. People are going back to restaurants, they’re opening up stores, it’s occurring in different states and so we’re going to learn a lot more about where people think we are and the progression of the disease by taking a look at how they respond to the relaxation of these constraints,” Evans said.

They also plan to look into the local restrictions of face mask and nursing home mortality rates in response to the pandemic.

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