Health Life

Most Americans were staying home before government mandates, study shows

Most Americans voluntarily stayed at home during the early days of the COVID-19 tsunami, before states began issuing official “shelter-in-place” orders, new research indicates.

Why? Because statewide emergency declarations coupled with news—of first infections, first fatalities and school closures—were motivation enough to get folks to stay home. This was more motivating than quarantine mandates imposed weeks later, say investigators.

The findings follow a review of U.S. cellphone signal patterns from early March through much of April. The data generated by more than 20 million smartphones a day across all 50 illustrated how much or how little users were moving about on a daily basis. That information was then stacked up against a timeline of state and local policy decisions.

Since March, “mobility fell substantially in all states. Even ones that have not adopted major distancing mandates,” said study lead author Sumedha Gupta, an assistant professor of economics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

That, she said, is because, even without stay-at-home requirements, people responded almost immediately to the alarming information they were getting.

“There is little evidence that stay-at-home mandates induced distancing,” said Gupta. Instead, it appears that “early and information-focused actions have had bigger effects.”

The findings, which have not been peer-reviewed, should be considered preliminary. They appear in a “working paper” published recently by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research.

The team compiled a list of policy “events” as they unfolded. In most states that trajectory began with a series of emergency declarations, including a State of Emergency, a Public Health Emergency, and/or a Public Health Disaster.

By March 16, all 50 states had enacted these measures, although they did not specifically impose restrictions on movement. But they often overlapped with news reports of the first local cases and deaths, and likely “conveyed the seriousness of the

Health article

On the front lines against Lyme disease

Blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, are tiny. But the problems they cause, like Lyme disease, can be big.

Most humans are infected through the bites of immature deer ticks called nymphs. Nymphs are difficult to see; they’re no bigger than a poppy seed. Adult ticks are no bigger than a sesame seed. 

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection you can get through a bite from an infected blacklegged tick, affects an estimated 300,000 Americans a year. The number of counties in areas at high risk for Lyme disease has increased more than 300% in the past 20 years.

“The best advice is don’t count on becoming immune. You can get Lyme disease multiple times.”

– Adriana Marques, M.D.

The infection, in its early stages, can cause flu-like symptoms and an expanding circular rash that can be solid red or appear like a bull’s-eye. In later stages, people can have additional rashes, paralysis of the muscles of the face, and arthritis with joint swelling.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) supports research aimed at both preventing Lyme disease and finding faster, more accurate tests for detecting it in its early stages, when it’s easier to treat.

“It’s a complicated, thought-provoking task,” says infectious disease expert Adriana Marques, M.D. Dr. Marques, who is chief of NIAID’s Lyme Disease Studies Unit, discusses the most recent research on Lyme disease and how people can protect themselves.

What progress has been made toward a better, quicker test for Lyme disease?

Among some of the new technologies being studied is a test of skin taken from the characteristic red rash that many people get with Lyme disease. There’s also research into a more sensitive blood test that can detect the germs not only from Lyme disease, but also several other tick-related illnesses.

There was