stay at home order

Cell phone data reveals people in Toronto finally started staying home more in January

It's been more than a month since provincial officials released modelling that revealed lockdown measures weren't having the same impact on residents' mobility as they did back in the spring, but new data suggests people in Toronto might finally be starting to get with the picture.

During the city's COVID-19 press briefing Monday afternoon, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said Toronto Public Health recently received new non-identifying cell phone data that showed increased time-at-home measures during the first week of January.

"Time-at-home measures were high last March and then decreased over the summer during reopening," she said. "We saw modest increases in time-at-home following additional measures put in place in October and November."

The most recent data for the week of Jan. 3 to 9, according to de Villa, shows time-at-home measures at 82 per cent, compared with 87 per cent in March of last year.

"This suggests that the lockdown from December 26 has had some impact on movement in Toronto," she explained. 

"It is early going, though, but if it holds, then over time decreases in case counts and hospitalizations should begin to emerge. It can happen if we are determined to stay at home and apart from people we don't live with for the short-term."

Mayor John Tory said Monday that he has requested more detailed information on the mobility data, such as break downs by day of the week, hour of the day and part of the city in an effort to determine exactly where and when people are staying home versus going out.

He added that he has also requested traffic data, and he'll share the results publicly whenever he does.

"What we hopefully will see, as January unfolds further and the stay-at-home order took hold, that traffic levels will further drop," said Tory. 

"And it's not an iron-clad indication of whether people are doing what they've been asked to do, and in some cases required to do, but it certainly is some indication of compliance."

"I hope we can use it as a positive encouragement to keep up the good work," continued Tory, "So that it will get us through this dark tunnel that we're in and out to the other end where the vaccinations are available to millions of people."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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