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Vanderbilt: Cell phone data shows travel to restaurants, churches still lower than usual

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Posted at 12:14 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 13:14:37-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Analysis from Vanderbilt University and medical center shows that Tennesseans reduced traveling even before COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were put in place.

The study, which used cell phone data to show how people moved across the state, showed areas with a higher number of cases traveled less than areas with fewer cases. Since mid-April, all areas of the state have seen increased movement, with some non-metro areas seeing more since the Safer-At-Home order expired on May 1.

However, the data shows travel to restaurants still remains low. Travel to churches and other religious organizations remains 50-60% lower than usual. Read the full report here.

The study said Memphis and Nashville -- areas with more cases and local reopening plans -- have lower mobility in almost every major industry compared to the rest of the state.

“What many people want to understand is how the scope and profile of economic activity has changed with the coronavirus, and if this activity has any relationship with continued transmission of the virus,” said John Graves, associate professor of Health Policy and director of the Center for Health Economic Modeling at Vanderbilt.

The data showed that only areas of the state that have been least affected by the virus have returned to mobility levels consistent with the same period in 2019 since the order expired at the beginning of May.