North Carolinians venturing out more in summer months, but not as often as pre-pandemic days

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Three months have passed since North Carolina entered its first phase of reopening on May 8 -- effectively eliminating the "essential business" designation and allowing retail stores to open.

Two weeks later, on May 22, Gov. Roy Cooper and other leaders decided to transition the state into Phase 2 -- opening restaurants and personal care salons with restrictions in place, but keeping bars, gyms and entertainment venues closed.

Since then, North Carolina has stalled in the phase as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations started to increase rapidly. Wednesday, Cooper issued another five-week extension of Phase 2.

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But North Carolinians have been allowed to frequent businesses and leave their homes more in recent months, mobility data from Google shows that many in the Triangle are still choosing to stay home more often than they did in Jan. and Feb., though less often than during Cooper's stay-at-home order.

Google compiles reports for countries around the world, using data from its "Location History" feature to track how communities have been moving since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Google said insights in the reports are created with aggregated and anonymized sets of data from users who manually turned on the setting in Google apps on their mobile devices, and did not specify how many users in each county or state contributed to the report.

To calculate a baseline from which to compare current values, Google uses these data sets from the five weeks between Jan. 3 and Feb. 6. That "baseline" value is then calculated for each day of the week, and each subsequent day's value is a percentage relative to that baseline. For example, the value for Sunday, Aug. 2, was calculated relative to the average of all Sundays in Jan..

Learn more about how Google compiles these reports here.

By early April, ABC11 reported that travel to restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, theme parks, museums, libraries and movie theaters had decreased 40% across North Carolina compared to the baseline figure since Feb. 16, but time spent at residential locations had increased 10%.

However, in May and June, as the state began to reopen, North Carolinians started to go shopping and out to eat 54 percent more often than they did in April, though compared to baseline numbers, they were still venturing out 15 percent less often than in Jan.

At the same time, time spent at home, on average, decreased by 40 percent compared to April's data, though North Carolinians stayed home 9 percent more often than they did in January.

In the Triangle, people are still going out much less often than they did in January and February, particularly in Orange County, which has the largest decrease compared to the baseline numbers for travel to retail and recreation location.

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However, in Cumberland County, residents are going out almost as often, if not more often than in Jan. and Feb.

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And though people in the Triangle tended to spend more time at home in the weeks of Cooper's stay-at-home order than residents elsewhere in the state, in recent weeks, North Carolinians have been spending roughly the same amount of time at home as they did before the pandemic, particularly on weekends.

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