Too close for comfort

Every Dallas-Fort Worth county scores F on new social distancing report card

Every Dallas-Fort Worth county scores F on social distance report card

Social distancing
We are apparently getting too close, a new report says.  Photo by Getty Images

Every county in Dallas-Fort Worth earns an unhealthy F on a widely used social-distancing report card.

The social-distancing scoreboard from Unacast, a provider of location data and analytics, shows all 13 counties in DFW received a failing grade for social distancing as of May 20.

Relying on a huge storehouse of cellphone data, the Unacast scoreboard measures social-distancing activity on a daily basis in every state and county compared with activity before the coronavirus outbreak. The scorecard assigns a letter grade of A through F based on current social-distancing behavior.

Each grade is based on three factors:

  • Percentage change in average distance traveled compared with the pre-coronavirus period
  • Percentage change in visits to nonessential places compared with the pre-coronavirus period
  • Decrease in person-to-person encounters compared with the national pre-coronavirus average

So, how did Dallas and Tarrant counties, for instance, fare in those three categories? On May 20, the counties’ grade in each category was an F. Why? Because they had less than a 25 percent reduction in average mobility (based on distance traveled), less than a 55 percent reduction in nonessential visits, and less than a 40 percent decrease in “encounters density” compared with the national average.

The grades for Dallas and Tarrant counties haven’t always been so poor, though:

  • On April 4, Dallas County earned an A for at least a 70 percent reduction in nonessential visits.
  • On April 11, Tarrant County received a B for a 55 percent to 70 percent drop in average mobility.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued a warning May 20 about the importance of continuing to practice social distancing and wear masks in public.

“I am going to caution our residents again that reopening is not a return to normal. We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Johnson said. “We are identifying hundreds of new cases every single day. People are still dying.”

In Texas, DFW isn’t alone in its apparent failure, at least recently, to adhere to social-distancing guidelines. On May 20, not a single county in the Austin, Houston, and San Antonio metro areas earned higher than a D on the Unacast report card.

All five counties in the Austin area got F’s, as did all but one county in the Houston area and all but three counties in the San Antonio area, according to the scoreboard. San Antonio’s Bandera County earned the highest grade (D) of any county in the state’s four major metros.

The scores for the state’s major metros appear to reflect the recent loosening of stay-at-home restrictions across Texas. But health experts still recommend sticking with social-distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, Unacast points out that the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cite social distancing as the “most effective way” to combat coronavirus infections.

Unacast says it launched the social-distancing scoreboard in March to enable organizations to measure and grasp the efficiency of local social-distancing efforts.

“Data can be one of society’s most powerful weapons in this public health war,” Thomas Walle, co-founder and CEO of Unacast, says in an April 16 release.