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How many more people are leaving their homes under safer-at-home guidelines?

The Tri-County Health Department has been sifting through data that's helping them track how many more people are leaving their homes under safer at home guidelines.
Credit: KUSA

DENVER — The Tri-County Health Department has been sifting through data that's helping them track how many more people are leaving their houses as Colorado transitions to the safer at home model.

The data from seven counties include Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties. 

What did the Tri-County Health Department find?

Adam Anderson with the Tri-County Health Department laid out some of the top findings in an e-mail: 

For Colorado -

•    Across the state and for most the Front Range counties, by mid-April, we saw roughly a 70% drop in the amount people moving around each day.

•    Now, in most areas around Colorado, we are seeing around only a 30% decrease from our normal daily movement after moving to safer-at-home; however that increase in movement started around mid-April.

What about specifically along the Front Range?

The data showed walking and driving picked up. In mid-April, it was down over 70% of normal activity and is now down 35% from normal. Anderson said they've been comparing activity levels to the same time period as last year. 

Public transportation dropped to a low of about 70% of normal in mid-April and hasn't seen a significant increase. 

The number of people traveling to workplaces remained low, only seeing incremental increases compared to low points in mid-April. 

The data was through the first full week of May. 

What about significant jumps in movements? 

Arapahoe, Boulder, Jefferson and Douglas saw anywhere from 50% to 60% increases in individuals visiting parks and recreational areas compared to the overall average for the last two 1/2 months through the course of the pandemic. 

Denver has seen an increase of around 50% in visits to retail stores compared to the low point in mid-April. That is still down over 40% from normal.This includes large stores that were open with strict health guidelines and stores now offering curbside pickup. 

Denver also saw a jump in people visiting parks and recreation areas.

Anderson said Douglas County saw the greatest increase in movement outside of parks/recreation along the Front Range. The data showed a roughly 80% increase in people visiting retail and grocery stores compared to the lowest numbers in mid-April. 

RELATED: Colorado Health Institute maps out social distancing challenges with help of cell phone data

Where did this data come from? 

Anderson said Google, Apple and a company called Cuebiq are providing data relevant to the pandemic for free by using sources like cell phone data, apps and Google maps. It's meant to help health departments get a sense of how far people are traveling and where they are visiting. 

Anderson said they get aggregate data, not individual information, so no one can be identified.

Instead, they are mostly looking at percentage changes in how much people are moving, which doesn't translate to individual population numbers. 

What happens with this data?

The Tri-county Health Department has been monitoring data for several weeks to understand if policies regarding the pandemic have been effective. 

Anderson said they've shared the data with other public health departments as well. 

What about privacy concerns? 

MSU Denver Computer Science Professor Steve Beaty said if people can go into their app settings to turn location services on, off or pick when it's used. 

Beaty also said it's a balance between providing useful information to help slow down COVID-19 and respecting people's privacy since technology has advanced so quickly on how people's movements can be tracked. 

He said because companies like Google said it's offering anonymous aggregate data it does help protect people's privacy 

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