Americans are venturing out more to fast-food restaurants, gas stations and public places even as health experts and government officials demand extending economic lockdowns, location data show.
People are back to visiting gas stations and fast-food restaurants at pre-COVID-19 levels, according to location data collected by Foursquare, a local search-and-discovery app that helps users discover places near them to visit and eat. Foursquare noted the changes in how people are moving in a blog post Thursday showing that people are apparently feeling free to travel about.
Americans are changing their behavior even as governors and mayors across the country continue extending stay-at-home orders to prevent an uptick in coronavirus deaths.
Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for one, extended her state’s lockdown until May 28 and increased her executive powers as protesters stormed Michigan’s state capitol amid a flurry of demonstrations.
Michigan has seen more than 4,000 people die from coronavirus, or COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China before going global, killing more than 160,000 people worldwide.
Meanwhile, people are getting used to the new situation and even bucking some guidelines, location data show. Gas stations are down only 6% nationally as of April 24, compared to 8-11% weeks prior, Foursquare noted.
Such visits to fuel stations have returned to normal in the Midwest and in rural areas, which have seen slower spread and fewer COVID-19-related deaths than coastal cities.
The uptick in gas station visits could be a good sign for the oil industry given that much of oil consumption is routed through air and vehicle travel, which both bottomed out over the past several weeks, forcing crude prices into the cellar. The airline and oil industry have seen their sales drop substantially as a result.
Americans are still avoiding restaurants and bars. Casual visits to eateries cratered around March 28-31, Foursquare noted in the blog before adding that traffic to larger restaurant chains has picked up recently.
Traffic to such restaurants increased slightly since mid-April, down 70% nationally as of April 24, compared to being down 73% in the weeks before that date, location data show.
Many Americans are still worried ending lockdowns could result in catastrophe. An NBC News poll published in April found that Roughly 60% of voters say they are more concerned that nixing lockdowns would lead to more deaths than they are that the restrictions will hurt the U.S. economy.
Despite the polling, some U.S. states are gradually reopening their economies. Georgia, Texas and Tennessee, for instance, are preparing to ease stay-at-home orders and bucking health officials who argue continued lockdowns must continue.
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