The longer the “Stay home - Stay Safe” order continues, the more residents of Hillsdale County begin to ignore it.

You don’t just have to count cars on the road or in parking lots. The University of Maryland has developed a COVID-19 Impact Analysis Platform which provides data and insight on COVID-19’s impact on mobility, economy and society for all states and counties.

“Metrics are produced based on validated computational algorithms and privacy-protected data from mobile devices” and other sources, the university explained.

It started as part of a transportation study monitoring cell phone locations and changes provided through the carriers anonymously so individuals cannot be identified.

The university developed an index of 0 to 100 to represent the extent residents and visitors are practicing social distancing. “0” indicates no social distancing is observed in the community, while “100” indicates all residents are staying at home and no visitors are entering the county.

On April 4, the index for Hillsdale County was a 57, but by April 18 it had dropped slightly to 51. Last Saturday, with its warm weather, the index was only 29.

The study also measured those who stayed within one mile of their home. On April 4, 32 percent of those in the county were staying put. But by April 18 it slipped to 29 percent and fell to 23 percent Saturday.

The number of trips per person has also increased from 2.6 per person of those with phones April 4, on and April 18 to 2.8 then rose to 3.5 on May 2.

The percentage of those traveling out of county rose from 27 percent April 4 and April 18 to 33 percent on May 2. The number of miles traveled per person rose from 20.6 miles April 4, to 23.9 April 18 and was 31.8 on May 2.

Work trips per person was a consistent .2. based on the total population of 45,749 people on all the dates which was after the massive layoffs caused by the pandemic close down.

Comparing Hillsdale County to Oakland County near Detroit where there are massive numbers of COVID 19 cases, on Friday showed it had an index of compliance of 53. There 33 percent of the population of 1.2 million are staying home. Non-work trips are 2.6 per person with only .2 traveling for work.

There are 7,518 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases there with 757 deaths. For Hillsdale, the number Sunday was 68 confirmed cases with two deaths.

The conclusion was the University of Maryland study is “after about two weeks into the pandemic, social distancing measures stopped improving despite skyrocketing COVID-19 case numbers and government stay-at-home orders thus experiencing “Social Distancing Inertia.”

“The percentage of people staying home nationwide rapidly increased from 20-35 percent in the week of March 15 at the onset of COVID-19 and then has stagnated at 35percent for three weeks as of April 10," the report stated.

Now with states easing the lock down, the number of people “social distancing” diminishes as the number of COVID-19 cases grows, although at a lesser rate than in March.

The study concludes “Government advisories and stay-at-home orders have not accomplished expected change in mobility behavior, according to our data analysis. Those who are able to adopt social distancing practices have already done so before government intervention.”

It indicated “Those who cannot or do not want to stay at home show significant behavior inertia and render government stay-at-home orders much less effective than expected.”