By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily
Tracking the mobility of Wyomingites using cellphone data isn’t an accurate portrayal of the state’s efforts to “flatten the curve,” a state senator said.
Unacast, a mobility mapping company, rated Wyomingites among the worst in the nation (awarding it an F+) for staying home during the pandemic, but Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said the state’s open spaces make such a study not credible.
“The whole thing is complete bunk if you ask me,” Driskill said. “We have ranchers who travel as much as 40 to 50 miles a day on their own property just to feed their animals.”
Using technology originally designed to grant insight about where people were attending live music concerts, Unacast reported that as of April 5, residents reduced their travel distances by less than 25% since coronavirus reached the United States. The company also found that the state’s residents cut their trips to non-essential locations by 55% to 60% during the same period. The company updates its rankings daily and categorizes essential travel as trips to the grocery store, pharmacy and pet supply stores.
Wyoming’s overall Unacast rank improved from an F to C-minus during the course of the last two weeks, due largely to the addition of a new measurement on how likely it was for residents to encounter other people. Wyoming’s “encounter density” dropped by 98% from late February.
But, the state remains poorest ranked in the nation for its overall social distancing, although some counties ranked significantly better than others..
Teton County, which installed travel restrictions early on, ranked highest with an A for decreased average distance traveled. Every county in the state received an “A” for reducing encounters between people. View the full report: www.unacast.com.
Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report reflected similar decreases in mobility on data collected through March 29. Using insights based on data from users who have opted-in to location history for their Google Account, the report found Wyoming users’ trips to retail and recreation destinations declined about 37% from pre-coronavirus levels, but travel to parks — including city parks and national parks — increased by 29%. Travel to workplaces decreased by 29% from base line, but travel to residential destinations increased by 8%.
View the full report:
Driskill said data doesn’t tell the whole story. Wyoming’s rural nature means many people have to travel long distances for necessities, such as food and healthcare. In some cases in Crook County where Driskill lives, the closest hospital is 40 miles away and most of his neighbors have to travel across state lines to access major grocery stores such as Walmart, he explained.
“The truth is in the pudding,” Driskill said. “The spread is slow in Wyoming. We’ve had no deaths, and all our hospitals have capacity. I think we’re doing good.”