Duke DataFest Analysis Supports Effectiveness of Social Distancing in Reducing the Spread of COVID-19

Across the world and in the United States, multiple studies have shown that social distancing is effective at reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 both at interpersonal and statewide levels. An early analysis of social distancing in the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic, presented at this year’s Duke American Statistical Association (ASA) DataFest: COVID-19 Virtual Data Challenge by Duke undergraduates Shannon Houser and Jack Lichtenstein, echoed those findings and won the “Best Visualizations” prize at the contest. Using data available from Google Mobility Reports, the duo explored how factors such as population density, initial number of positive coronavirus cases per capita, governor’s political affiliation, and official shelter-in-place orders influenced the magnitude of a state’s social distancing early during the COVID-19 pandemic.