Social Distancing: How & Why People Were Proactively Avoiding Crowds Before They Were Required To

March 19th, 2020

COVID-19 has transformed the world in a matter of days, with each recent day feeling more like a week. Social distancing regulations by local and state governments have led to many businesses temporarily shutting their doors or limiting the services they are able to offer, creating ghost towns out of once-bustling universities, office buildings, places of worship, gyms, and restaurants. The impact is also felt by students & teachers whose classes and curriculums are in flux and among those whose milestone events such as weddings, bucket list trips, and graduation ceremonies have been paused or canceled. 

For every person who tried to squeeze in their last big hurrah before gatherings became restricted, another was proactively putting the brakes on events & outings before they were officially canceled. Curious to gain deeper insight into what types of plans were being voluntarily abandoned and why, we surveyed 1,508 of our members last week.

Putting off family visits and outings in order to protect relatives emerged as a common thread among our members surveyed. One concerned respondent expanded: “We canceled a trip home to see elderly grandfather and a newborn nephew due to the coronavirus. Just don’t want to take any risks for these family members.”  Others echoed this sentiment:

“I was planning to travel via Amtrak to visit family. I just don’t feel it’s worth the risk to my family here or there.” (Male, 40-49)

“I canceled a family dinner due to the fact my sister is pregnant and didn’t want to risk spreading any illness.” (Female, 30-34)

“I work in a medical office and am worried I was exposed to COVID-19, so I canceled plans with my family. I do not want to expose my young nieces and nephews or my older father if in case I am currently hosting the virus.” (Female, 40-49)

Another prevalent theme was a careful evaluation of whether the plans in question were worth the risk of perhaps acquiring or transmitting the virus. A college-aged member stated: “I was planning on attending a concert, but since the outbreak of the virus, I’ve decided I’ll no longer attend. I want to be careful as my father is elderly and my mother is in her 50s. If I were to get sick my odds of surviving are much higher than theirs.”

Voluntary cancellations ranged from more impromptu outings to excursions that were planned well in advance:

“To limit my exposure to potential infection by the coronavirus, I am restricting myself from attending non-mandatory gatherings of people so that I don’t bring the virus home and expose my family to it.” (Male, 18-24)

“We canceled our plans to go to the gym because we were concerned about the amount of people that could potentially spread disease.” (Female, 25- 29)

“Today I am in the process of canceling an upcoming trip for later this month (March) for elective hair and health-related appointments that are out of town…I am canceling them because my husband is in the age and health group that is most at risk for complications with coronavirus and because we do not wish to contribute to the problem of spreading the virus should the outbreak become worse, which we believe it will.” (Female, 60-69)

As our day-to-day lives are being universally impacted by COVID-19 for the unforeseen future, we’ll next delve into which companies are making a clear effort to put their customers first.

Latest from the Blog