Americans Struggled to Keep Social Distance for Thanksgiving, Location Data Shows

Data from 15 million cellphones shows which counties saw increased gathering during the holiday

David McNew/Getty Images

Americans were warned that the nation’s explosive rise in coronavirus cases this fall made traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday unsafe. But they traveled anyway, and new data suggests they might not have practiced social distancing while doing so.

According to an NBC News analysis of cellphone location data provided by the analytics and marketing company Cuebiq, Americans in more than 1,900 counties saw increased rates of closeness during Thanksgiving travel, compared to the previous week.

Cuebiq has analyzed detailed location data from more than 15 million mobile devices in the contiguous U.S. since March to determine how often people lingered within 50 feet of someone else for at least five minutes while outside of their homes.

From Nov. 22 to Nov. 28, each day saw a rise in the number of counties where people increased their closeness level compared to the week earlier.

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