Florida coronavirus: Floridians stopped traveling well before official shutdowns, data shows

The Times looked at data from Google, Descartes Labs and Unacast, three companies that use location data to determine if people are isolating themselves socially.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order that went into effect April 3. In comparison, California's stay-at-home order began March 19, Illinois's March 21, New York's March 22, and Ohio's March 23.

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Despite Florida's later action, the data showed that people severely cut their travel well in advance of their counties and the state ordering a stay-at-home.

During the five days before Miami-Dade County's March 26 home order, more than half of the phones tracked by Descartes Labs never traveled more than a mile, according to the Times. This was a drop of more than 80% compared to data collected from mid-February to early March.

Florida's governor claims victory over coronavirus, but luck may have been a factor
The analysis confirms which experts told CNN earlier this month when DeSantis took credit for the relatively low infection and death rate in Florida.
Florida, the nation's third most populous state, has had over 40,000 coronavirus confirmed cases and over 1,700 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The infection rate and death rate per capita have been far below that in other states, and experts are torn with why it is.
Florida is still a mystery, according to several epidemiologists who spoke to CNN – a place where unique factors such as "car culture", lower density in parts of the state outside Miami, less frequent use of public transportation and possibly even heat and humidity may have slowed down the transmission of coronavirus.

Still, they worry that Sunshine State will see a second wave of coronavirus cases as restaurants and many businesses open their doors.

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Yaleidi's Santiago is wearing a full face shield, mask and gloves while working at Presidente Supermarket April 13, 2020 in Miami, Florida.

Similarly, Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health and health metrics at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told CNN that mobility data showed that many elderly Floridians began social distancing long before DeSantis issued their home order.

Mokdad also emphasized that the stringent measures that local officials enforced in places like Broward and Miami-Dade counties that began in late March were critical to curbing the spread.

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"We're really amazed by Florida," said Mokdad, who has a home in Daytona Beach and has been monitoring the data closely. What is clear, he said, is that Floridians "took it seriously. They practiced social distancing, even when the governor did not say social distancing" when they watched the virus ravage Italy and New York.

DeSantis took a victory lap this month as he prepared to reopen the state and singled out his "tailor-made" and "surgical" approach to being home, because the central reason Florida has so far defied the bleak predictions that it would get "way" worse than Italy. "

"A lot has been done to try to promote fear, to promote worst-case scenarios, to drive hysteria," DeSantis said recently. "People should know that the worst situation is thinking (in Florida) – it hasn't turned out to be true."

Correction: This story has been updated to accurately describe how the three companies referred to by the Times collect data.

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CNN's Maeve Reston contributed to this report.

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