Valley residents traveling farther than most Californians, cell phone data shows

ByJohn Kelly KFSN logo
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Valley residents traveling farther than most Californians
California initiated a "stay at home" order on March 19, but the state carved out a lot of essential work as exceptions and we wanted to see how well people are following the order

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California initiated a "stay at home" order on March 19, but the state carved out a lot of essential work as exceptions, and we wanted to see how well people are following the order.

Homeland Security says journalists are essential in times of emergency, so even during the coronavirus crisis a lot of us leave the house, hop in the car, and drive somewhere to tell stories like usual.

So Action News reporters are traveling about the same distance every day as they usually would, but that is not the case for everyone.

RELATED: Fresno's 'shelter in place' order extended to April 12, Mayor Brand says

"I haven't left the house in over two weeks except to go on walks," said Chanell West. "Before that, I had work. I had engagements all across the city so I would go anywhere up to 15 miles away from home."

We found West on a long walk with her mother and sister Tuesday on an otherwise lonely sidewalk by a vacant elementary school.

The nearby neighborhood is nearly empty, except for a man walking two dogs and a lawnmower cutting grass in the deserted park.

West says she's following her parents' lead and thinking about people other than herself.

"Our 84-year-old grandfather also lives with us, so his safety is a big concern," she said. "It's a big part of the reason we're making the decisions that we are."

By tracking the anonymous movement of cell phones, we can tell you her family is fairly typical of people who live in the Valley.

(Click/tap here to see graph in a new window)

According to data provided by Descartes Labs, the average person in Fresno County traveled about 1.1 miles away from home on March 23.

The county has not issued any stay at home orders, but the city of Fresno asked people to shelter in place a day before the state "stay at home" order.

People went just slightly farther in Tulare, Kings, Merced, and Madera counties, maxing out at an average of 1.3 miles away from home in Tulare and Merced.

On March 9, as people started to become aware of the coronavirus outbreak, people traveled an average of 3.8 miles in Fresno County.

The data show a sharp dropoff in that distance, especially after March 16, which was the Monday when students stopped going to school in almost all California districts.

We're still traveling almost twice as far as the average person in the state, though.

California's average as of March 23 was 0.6 miles per person, more along the lines of Dennis Weibert's experience.

"I'm mostly staying at home," he said. "I turned 70 this year so I'm just trying to vegetate at home."

We found him at the grocery store, which he says is about as far as he's willing to go now.

Even though journalists are essential and often traveling, we're definitely adjusting our approach to making new friends: air high-fiving or giving air elbows, for example.

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