COVID-19 is affecting the health of communities large and small across North Carolina. But how is the pandemic impacting how people travel in North Carolina, and how might those changes interplay with health policies?

The motivation for this project is to understand the interrelationships of public health policies, mobility changes, and the transmission of COVID-19 to inform policy decisions in North Carolina.

Specific research questions that will be explored as part of this six-month, research project funded by The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory* include:

  • Did shelter-in-place policies, emergency declarations, and general news and events (local and nationwide) reduce movement within North Carolina, and did this slow the spread of COVID-19?
  • How has re-opening changed mobility patterns, as compared to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place period?
  • How has COVID-19 impacted the transportation safety sector?
  • Assuming mobility patterns have shifted, has this had a measurable impact on COVID-19 transmission patterns?
  • What recommendations can state or local municipalities implement to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while minimizing other safety and transportation impacts?

*This is one of 85 projects currently funded by The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory, based at UNC-Chapel Hill, focused on treatment, community testing, and prevention of COVID-19. These research projects are intended to provide new data and information to North Carolina lawmakers and policymakers to help guide the state’s pandemic response. Learn more about all Collaboratory COVID-19 Research project here:

Research Tasks

The NC COVID-19 Mobility and Health Impacts Study is comprised of seven individual research tasks.

Task 1

Acquiring and Linking NC’s Health and Mobility Data
The focus of this task is to acquire and link NC’s health and mobility data from many different organizations and sources.

Task 2

Reviewing Existing Research for Mobility and Health Findings
This task will review and synthesize research from peer-reviewed literature; ongoing state, national, and international studies involving the intersection of mobility and COVID health impacts; and studies applying spatial analysis to mobility data to assess changes in mobility and association with COVID-19 transmission.

Task 3

Identifying Mobility and Health Impact Trends due to COVID-19 – Phase 1/Base Analysis
The objective of this task of to understand general trends of mobility and health impacts due to COVID-19 across different counties in North Carolina.

Task 4

Identifying Mobility and Health Impact Trends due to COVID-19 – Phase 2/Expanded
This task will build on the results from Task 3 and provide further insight toward the project’s research questions, specifically considering the inter-relationships between the trends in different health and mobility datasets.

Task 5

Studying Effects of COVID-19 on Young Drivers and Policy
The effect of COVID-19 on the safety of young drivers is not known; however, there are several indications that teens are being affected in negative ways.

Task 6

Examining COVID-19 and Transportation Safety
The focus of this task is to investigate the effect of COVID-19 on transportation safety in North Carolina.

Task 7

Data Management, Storage, and Visualization
Led by the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, the focus of this task will provide the data management and storage needs for the entire project.