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Coronavirus

Most northern Illinois counties grade well on social distancing, according to smartphone data

Unacast Social Distancing Scoreboard shows suburbs doing their part, mostly

As of 1:56 p.m. Thursday, March 26, most northern Illinois counties are showing teal colors signifying "A" grades – along with "B" grades shown in green, dull orange showing "C" grades and orange showing "D" grades – from the Unacast Social Distancing Scoreboard.
As of 1:56 p.m. Thursday, March 26, most northern Illinois counties are showing teal colors signifying "A" grades – along with "B" grades shown in green, dull orange showing "C" grades and orange showing "D" grades – from the Unacast Social Distancing Scoreboard.

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While most Illinois counties in northern Illinois appear to be adhering to social distancing guidelines from health officials, there are a couple of counties that could be doing better, according to tracked GPS location data.

Smartphone users in the region are contributing to a large COVID-19 coronavirus surveillance system showing whether northern Illinoisans are staying home and practicing social distancing.

Unacast, a company that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data, launched a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” on Tuesday, March 24 that grades counties on average distance traveled by monitoring decreases in that average travel.

Lake, DuPage, Putnam, DeKalb, McHenry, Cook, Kane, Kendall, Will and Carroll counties have all received "A" grades, with average distance travelled decreasing by 42% to 59%, according to Sunday, March 22 data that was displayed on Thursday by Unacast. Ogle, Lee, Whiteside and LaSalle counties all received "B" grades, with travel decreasing by 32% to 39%, the scorecard data said.

However, two counties – Grundy and Bureau – have received "D" grades, with average travel distance only decreasing by 16%, according to the scorecard.

Hector Gomez, director for the Bureau, Putnam and Marshall County Health Department, said that, anecdotally speaking, he has been seeing mostly essential businesses staying open while restaurants have been doing more curbside pick-up orders during Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker's stay-at-home order, which is set for re-evaluation in less than two weeks.

He said he also has seen a lot more surgical or procedural masks while he's been out and about.

"From what I’ve seen ... around Walmart or Sullivan’s, pretty much everybody’s maintaining social distance," Gomez said.

Gomez confirmed there have been no reported COVID-19 cases in Bureau and Putnam counties, although there is one confirmed case in Marshall County. There are still no reported COVID-19 cases in Carroll, Ogle and Lee counties, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.

Gomez said it's important for members of the community to continue to practice social distancing because he believes the peak in COVID-19 cases hasn't been reached yet in this pandemic. If you look at the health data from big cities like Chicago, he said, they are still getting huge numbers of cases.

“It’s just going in an upward trend and you haven’t seen a downward trend as of yet, which tells you there’s still a virus going around,” Gomez said.

Gomez said social distancing is meant to help hospitals not become overwhelmed, like helping more beds stay available and to help ration hospital supplies. He said it also helps to lower exposure of the virus to others and to "flatten the curve," or lower infection numbers.

“You’re talking a little hill rather than a mountain, so to speak,” Gomez said.

So far, there have been two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Grundy County, according to health officials. The first case was a woman in her 30s and the second case is a woman in her 40s.

Michelle Pruim, administrator for the Grundy County Health Department, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Shaw Media Illinois on Thursday, March 26.

According to Illinois Department of Public Health data, there have been COVID-19 related deaths reported in Kane, Cook, DuPage, Will and – more recently – McHenry counties.

Unacast Social Distancing Grades By County as of Thursday, March 26 morning:

Lake County: Grade A, 59% less average distance travelled

DuPage County: Grade A, 59% less average distance travelled

Putnam County: Grade A, 58% less average distance travelled

DeKalb County: Grade A, 55% less average distance travelled

McHenry County: Grade A, 54% less average distance travelled

Cook County: Grade A, 52% less average distance travelled

Kane County: Grade A, 51% less average distance travelled

Kendall County: Grade A, 49% less average distance travelled

Will County: Grade A, 44% less average distance travelled

Carroll County: Grade A, 42% less average distance travelled

Ogle County: Grade B, 39% less average distance travelled

Lee County: Grade B, 37% less average distance travelled

Whiteside County: Grade B, 33% less average distance travelled

LaSalle County: Grade B, 32% less average distance travelled

Grundy County: Grade D, 16% less average distance travelled

Bureau County: Grade D, 16% less average distance travelled