NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A lot more New Mexicans are back on the road and out and about. Descartes Labs of Santa Fe said mobility is just one factor the governor’s team considers when deciding the best ways to control the virus, and it’s steadily increasing.
New Mexicans are getting out more. “I have definitely seen more and more people going out progressively every day,” Albuquerque resident Cameron Abeita said.
Since the state began slowly reopening in the middle of May, shopping center parking lots are filling up, and people are frequenting outdoor patios and restaurants. “You can see people are becoming more comfortable,” Abeita said.
That means traffic is up. Video from Sky News 13 shows the Big-I in late April showed less traffic than video shot of the Big-I Thursday. “Oh it is huge,” Albuquerque resident Rondy Thornton said. “I mean there was no traffic and now there is tons of traffic so people are going somewhere.”
Descartes Labs of Santa Fe tracks mobility through your cell phone data. They have seen a steady increase since early April with mobility trending up during the workweek and peaking on Fridays. “I think it is hard to make a value judgment about whether it is good or bad,” CTO Mike Warren said. “It kind of falls on the people who are investigating the models.”
A graph of southwestern states shows that New Mexico, represented by the red line in the lower half, is trending similar to other places, seeing a drop in travel on Memorial Day and a steady increase since. However, our mobility index is drastically less than places like Oklahoma, shown in purple, which reopened at the end of April.
“I guess one of the mysteries is that while all the states are behaving fairly similarly in terms of mobility, it looks like the infection rates are differing,” Warren said. “For instance, Arizona seems to be picking up quite substantially, but the mobility looks very much the same as their neighboring states.”
Descartes Labs has been providing their data to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office daily since early April to help gauge whether New Mexicans have been adhering to social distancing guidelines. “It is important to realize that it is not just one variable that is going to be important,” Warren said. “The mobility is measuring how far people are moving from home, but that is going to interact with how many people are wearing masks and other behaviors so it ends up being a complicated modeling problem.”
They predict mobility will be back to pre-COVID levels within the next month or so. “Everybody is ready to go out,” Abeita said. “They have been inside their homes for almost three months now. They want to go out and see people and everything like that.”
Descartes Labs uses smartphone geo-location to track movement in various counties. They plan to continue to provide information to the state as long as it is helpful. The company stresses they do not track individuals and do not know who the phone numbers belong to when they use the data.