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Mid-state residents were moving about more freely in May and June

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Dr. Ken Blake
/
MTSU

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  A Middle Tennessee State University researcher says mid-state residents were slowly returning to their normal travel patterns during May and June.

That may be good news for the regional economy, but could complicate efforts to bring a recent spike in new cases of COVID-19 under control.

MTSU’s Dr. Ken Blake said the raw data he used in the analysis comes from Google and is publicly available. The data tracks cell phone movements in four broad categories between May 5 and July 3 for Davidson, Williamson and Rutherford counties. The percentages cited below are all based on seven day averages.

Dr. Blake noted that visits by Nashville residents to retail outlets, restaurants and recreation venues rose nearly 30 percent in May and June, but still remained 4 percent below normal. Trips to workplaces across Metro remain well below normal, but have risen 12 percent since early May. The number of Nashvillians remaining at home is still well above normal, but down five percent over the past two months.

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Credit Dr. Ken Blake / MTSU

In Rutherford County, visits to retail outlets and restaurants also remained below normal, but have risen more than 14 points in the past two month. Trips to work are just over 33 percent below normal, but have risen five percent since early May. The number of Rutherford residents remaining at home is still nine percent above normal, but has fallen five percent since May 5.

In Williamson County, visits to retail outlets and restaurants remained nearly 13 percent below normal, but have risen more than 19 percent in the past two months. Trips by Williamson County residents to a place of employment are better than 38 percent below normal, but up 11 percent since May 5. The number of Williamson residents remaining at home is nearly 12 percent above normal, but has fallen five percent since early May.

It remains to be seen whether renewed mobility across the mid-state will stall out or continue to rise in the coming days and weeks. Tennessee in general, and the mid-state in particular, have suffered a sharp rise in the numbers of new cases of COVID-19, along with more moderate increases in virus transmission rates 

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Credit Dr. Ken Blake / MTSU

and hospitalization rates.

Two weeks ago, Metro Davidson County reacted to the COVID-19 spike by re-imposing more stringent restrictions on some businesses and closing others. Earlier this week Williamson County imposed the mandatory use of masks for any resident out in public. Rutherford County now has the third highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee, but has declined to re-impose any restrictions on residents or businesses.

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