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September 1, 2020

It’s a sunny September morning and even though it looks just like the sunny August morning we had yesterday, it feels different. In our seventh month of the pandemic we are no longer surprised to find that some of the fluid changes have begun to solidify. There’s actually a pretty cool CDC graph that shows this plainly. It’s called: “Explore Human Mobility and COVID-19 Transmission in Your Local Area.” It shows the whole country, but you can filter down to state or even county to see a change in activity, say travel to work or travel to retail and recreation compared to the COVID metric of your choice. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#mobility

Orange County, CA. Notice travel to work takes a deep dive on the 3 holiday weekends.

Right now, I’m looking at Retail and Recreation visits in Orange County, California. This includes places like stores, shopping centers, restaurants, museums, and theme parks. Today visits are down 30% from the 0% baseline of February 15. The lowest point was minus 66% on April 12, but it’s hovered in the minus 30 to 40 % range since mid June. Well, so have I.

So let’s drill down to the individual (no, the graph doesn’t actually do that). Here’s how my activities have changed in the past 170 days:

  • Grocery shopping:
    • Then: Drive to store, shop in store, chat at checkout, give them my bags. Load bags in car, drive home, unload car, carry bags into kitchen, put things away, put bags back in car.
    • Now: Pull up Instacart, check off what I want, pick delivery time. Answer door, take bags in kitchen, put things away, and toss the bags into the recycle bin.
  • Social life:
    • Then: Live alone. Church activities, walk dogs with my neighbor. Weekly rehearsals and three annual performances with Festival Singers. Sunday church.
    • Now: Not alone! My son is telecommuting from my house. What a difference to share meals, hang out, talk about what’s going on! Continue to walk dogs daily with neighbor. Sunday: Church Zoom 9 AM. Family Zoom, 6 PM.
  • Vacations/Holidays:
    • Then: Plan months in advance with family and friends. Research where to stay, what to see, how to get there, who’s going.
    • Now: Cancel all plans. Cautiously begin to plan short road trips to outdoor destinations, avoiding large groups and indoor activities.

The CDC graphs generally show a steep decrease in travel to work and visiting retail/recreation locations from March 11 to March 25. Then the numbers climb up slowly to June 15, and level off from about June 15 to Sept. 1, at maybe half of what they were in March. The percent of persons staying at home is a mirror image–leveling off around 40%, twice as high as on March 11. Some kind of a temporary holding pattern seems to have emerged nationwide that is roughly reflected in California, Orange County, and — my life. How about yours?

This interactive graph was created by the CDC together with the Georgia Tech Research Institute. I think it will be interesting to see where we go from here. New COVID cases in our area are just beginning to decline. Will that last? Will people begin to go out more? Will our trips to work, retail, and recreation eventually increase back to the baseline of March 1 or level off 10 to 20% short of what they used to be? How will that drop affect the economy? The environment?

My neighbor just stopped by to bring me some apples from her tree.

I think I’ll be all right.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Coffee, ketchup and Nike Air Max: it’s the COVID consumer economy,” Reuters, Sept. 1, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-consumer-pricing-i/coffee-ketchup-and-nike-air-max-its-the-covid-consumer-economy-idUSKBN25S4SB

“Why Whole Foods is trying out a ‘dark store’ as part of its vision for the future of grocery shopping online,” USA Today, Sept. 1, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/food/2020/09/01/amazon-store-whole-foods-online-groceries-orders-coronavirus/5677610002/

“Walmart unveils long-awaited Walmart+ membership program,” Supermarket News, Sept. 1, 2020. https://www.supermarketnews.com/retail-financial/walmart-unveils-long-awaited-walmart-membership-program

“Hawaii to require visitors to fill out online ‘Safe Travels’ form before travel,” USA Today, Aug. 31, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2020/08/31/hawaii-covid-19-travel-you-must-fill-out-forms-safe-travel-app/5677692002/

Additional Sources:

CDC COVID Data Tracker, CDC, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#mobility

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

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