America Is On Lockdown—Except in the South

Based on cellphone location data, the New York Times was able to draw a map of where and when people started complying with coronavirus stay-at-home orders. The answer is infuriating:

The map doesn’t look this way because people in the South are idiots. It’s almost certainly because they’re conservative and they watch a lot of Fox News. They also listen to President Trump. And Rush Limbaugh. And what they heard was that the coronavirus was “just a bad cold.” That “within a couple of days it’s going to be down to close to zero.” That the hysteria was nothing but a “new hoax” from Democrats who want to bring down the president.

For weeks that’s what they heard. And they believed it. And so they resisted taking it seriously. That’s starting to shift now that Trump and the conservative noise machine have changed their tune, but it’s several weeks too late. What a shameful performance.

UPDATE: A lot of commenters are suggesting that this map has nothing to do with COVID-19. All it’s really showing is that in the South you generally have to travel several miles just to get to a grocery store. So even if residents are staying home, cellphone location data will show them traveling more than two miles just because they’re buying food.

I’m not sure that makes much sense, since both the Midwest and mountain West on this map are mostly green even though they’re much more sparsely populated than the South. Here’s a map showing the distribution of grocery stores throughout the country:

And here’s a map from the USDA showing areas with “low access” to grocery stores:

This isn’t definitive, but the South seems to have a fairly normal density of grocery stores for its population, and it’s actually better than most areas on access to grocery stores. There are lots of other areas of the country that are more sparsely populated and require longer driving distances, but it’s only in the South that people are still doing it. Grocery shopping just isn’t the answer here.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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