The analysis indicates that while Florida’s politicians debated beach closings and stay-at-home orders, residents took matters into their own hands.
By the time each county shut down, there had been large reductions in activity, the cell phone data shows. People in the worst-hit counties were overwhelmingly staying home weeks before DeSantis’ order went out — and even before the much-earlier orders issued by local governments.
At the time Floridians stopped venturing out, the virus most likely had spread to fewer individuals compared to the places that became national hotspots, according to epidemiologists who reviewed the Times’ analysis. But in the late days of March, this was masked by a severe lack of testing across the country, which made it impossible to tell.
The state’s sprawling cities and random strokes of good fortune may also have worked in Florida’s favor. But public health experts warned that as Florida reopens, its good luck could change with one asymptomatic disease carrier stepping into a large nursing home.