Residents of New Jersey closely followed the social distancing guidelines in the spring of 2020, but progressively relaxed their adherence to health recommendations over the summer and early fall of 2020. People once again became more careful about social distancing as COVID-19 case counts increased towards the end of 2020. Our most recent data indicate that as case numbers decreased in 2021, behaviors relaxed as well.
In Figure 1, we show trends in 8 different activities outside of the home that people reported engaging in within the 24 hours prior to taking our survey. The activities include going to work, to the gym, to a bar or café, to a place of worship, to the doctor, visiting a friend, taking mass transit, or being in a room with people who live outside one’s household.
The data show a notable uptick in all of these behaviors from April to mid-November. We observed a similar trajectory for each of the eight activities: low points in spring 2020, followed by high points in the fall, declines in the early winter, and finally a recent increase in February 2021. For instance, there was a large surge in people going to work outside of their home from late April to mid-November 2020 (19% to 40%), a subsequent drop to 31% in January 2021, and then a jump to 39% in February 2021.
The percentage of New Jersey residents who reported having been in a room with people other than members of their household more than doubled from late April to mid-November 2020 (21% to 45%) and was at 36% in February 2021. Reports of most other indoor activities also increased from late April to mid-November, although less dramatically. The percentage of people who reported going to a cafe, bar, or restaurant jumped from 5% to approximately 12%, the percentage that indicated going to a doctor or hospital increased from 7% to 11%, and the percentage taking mass transit rose from 1% to 7%. Visiting a friend represents a minor exception: such reports increased between April and late August, decreased until mid-November, and then peaked in early December.