Unusual ways to measure the coronavirus shutdown
Here are eight other measures to consider:
Last Thursday afternoon, for instance, traffic added about three minutes to a 30-minute trip in D.C. On a typical Thursday, it would have added 21 minutes to that same trip.
It is not just car traffic, either — public transit has virtually ground to a halt. In San Francisco, ridership on the region’s BART service was less than 10 percent of its typical volume on Monday.
The global airline industry also is grinding to a halt. Flight tracking service Flightradar24 is tallying fewer than 100,000 flights on weekdays this week, versus as many as 200,000 flights last week. The Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief package includes roughly $50 billion in aid for U.S. airlines.
While the roads and skies are emptying out, rental car lots around the country are filled with idle cars. The satellite imagery above, from Maxar Technologies, show the rental car center at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on March 5, before much of the shutdown happened and on March 23 after.
For the week ending March 21, American hotel occupancy was down well over 50 percent relative to the prior year, according to hospitality analytics firm STR.
The box office shuts down
The domestic box office passed a grim milestone this past weekend, dropping to essentially zero as theaters close and studios postpone new releases indefinitely. Before the outbreak, the industry was posting gross receipts of around $100 million each weekend.
Gaming takes off
With movies out of the picture, quarantined and isolated Americans have been turning to video games to pass their time. The gaming platform Steam posted its biggest-ever user numbers in the past week, according to analytics website steamdb.info.
Daily user numbers usually show wide variation between weekdays and weekends, reflecting how Americans’ time use differs depending on whether they have to work or not. However, in recent days, that distinction has all but disappeared, reflecting our new reality: With millions of people either working from home or laid off, there is little to differentiate weekends from weekdays anymore.
I would be remiss if I did not note one other striking data point about our quarantine-era time use: Traffic to porn sites is surging. Video streaming site Pornhub, for instance, reports that visits from the United States are up nearly 18 percent. They’ve also observed different time-of-day patterns in site visits, with big increases of traffic in the wee hours of the morning (people staying up late because they no longer have to work) and during the middle of the day.