Darke County Quarantine

There’s a site that purports to track how well one’s county is following social distancing protocols, and I was curious how my own county was doing in their estimation, so I put it into site. Turns out, Darke County, OH is not going all that great: It has a score of “D”, meaning that people are on average still moving about quite a lot.

Why might that be? One easy assumption is that it has something to do with ideology; a quick look at the county map shows that the areas that have better social distancing scores tend toward to be more liberal/Democratic, while the ones doing less well are more conservative/Republican. And while I think there may indeed be something to that, I think there are more practical issues at work. In Ohio, at least, the counties with better social isolation scores are also ones with more white collar jobs, i.e., jobs that can be done from home and in social isolation. Meanwhile, rural counties like Darke county have more blue collar and agricultural jobs, including ones deemed “essential,” which require more mobility on the part of the population. Additionally, things are further apart in rural counties — a trip to our “local” Kroger, for example, is 10 miles each way.

Which is to say I don’t think Darke County’s low score here is just a matter of stubborn people not thinking through what social distancing is, although again, I wouldn’t count that out entirely — one persistent rumor around these here parts is that the COVID-19 bug actually came through here weeks ago, so the area should be on the other side of its infection curve, which is a belief that bears no relation at all either to epidemiological trends or, frankly, common sense. People should still be at home. But at least some of that score reflects who lives and works in this county and the practical issues of living and working here. It does give some credence to the idea that to no small extent, the ability to socially distance is a mark of privilege and class.

47 Comments on “Darke County Quarantine”

  1. I always forget you live in the land of my people! I’m based in Baltimore, but my mom grew up in New Madison and I spent summers there all through my childhood. I hope your assessment is right – that people are generally doing the right thing, but the rural aspect forces more travel than in tighter communities. Be well, John! (Looking forward to cracking open the new book!)

  2. You live in Darke County?? That’s right up there with Eerie, Pennsylvania or anywhere in Maine for a Stephen King novel setting.

  3. In response to/adding to your final sentence: there’s all sorts of sad demographic perspectives on CV19. Including the worse health outcomes for men, blacks, and hispanics.

  4. Wow, my county here in Kentucky is also at a D. Much to consider. Thank you for posting this.

  5. We’re at A- here in MA, but I think your assessment of the role privilege plays here may have something to do with that. We’re in a very tech-heavy area and that means (I suspect) more people able to work at home. My hubby is one of those. That would tend to lead to a lightening of the number of people out and about at any given time.

  6. I’m surprised my county is also a D. We’re very liberal AND most of the students have had to leave. What’s the problem?

  7. I’ve been hearing the “oh, it’s already been here so the risk is overblown” just about from the beginning and it drives me NUTS!

    Our county gets a B, but we’re in a similar situation – mostly red county, mostly rural other than the southern tip of the county. Most of the individual people I know are taking this very seriously.

  8. I”ll second the nature of life and work having more to do with social distancing than actual politics. So what if most of rural America is conservative. How one has to interact to go about their lives is paramount. More important than politics is that it is planting season. Farmers are putting in crops, ag related business are busy as heck supporting them and people have to travel to do those activities. Who you vote for really should be firmly put in second place for the duration. Thanks for taking the time to reason it through and identify the why instead of adding to the media pundits who only want to use the empirical data point to beat the dead horse of who to blame.

  9. Classic urban vs. rural divide. It will be interesting to see the correlation between the county-by-county social distancing scores and cases of Covid-19 after this wave of the pandemic passes. Assuming people don’t catch on and learn how to shield their personal transponders aka cellphones.

  10. Could also be your Amish community (along with the general obstinance of rural/farm folk). Here in my part of the state we are holding our breath for when this hits the Amish. When I drove home form the hospital on Sunday there were several groups playing volleyball and sitting in large groups like they normally do.

  11. Kings County (that’s Brooklyn, y’all) earns an A-. I’m not surprised. The streets are pretty quiet here – granted, I live below the line rather than the Greenpoint-Williamsburg-Bushwick hipsterdom area – and most of what you see is people walking their dogs, plus the occasional jogger. Most people are wearing masks.

  12. According to that site, Montgomery County, PA rates an A- with 1,359 confirmed cases.

  13. Our county got an A (Maui in HI), but that seems to be mainly because we are mostly shut down; we are actively sending back anyone from elsewhere who doesn’t have a good reason for coming to HI. Tourists will get a lovely view of whatever they can see out their resort window for 14 days, and if you came to the islands with a one way ticket expecting to camp and be a beachcomber, you are being sent back courtesy of the state. Sorry!

  14. Also in a rural county that’s getting a D-, but I honestly think, for here, the 20%-40% reduction in average mobility is pretty good, all things considered. Lots of ag, lots of essential services, 11 or 11.1 miles to [local grocery chain] for me (11.1 for the one that does grocery pickup; I’ll go the extra 1/10 mile for pickup). The county with the nearest city (Greensboro) is getting a B, so.

  15. Being poor often means living in a food desert, even within a major city. Wards 7 and 8 in DC, the two lowest-income wards, account for 82% of the food deserts in the city, and there are only two full-service supermarkets. Most of the food stores there are corner mom-and-pop shops.

  16. When I saw “Darke County Quarantine” in my email, I figured it was a 5 things I learned writing the dystopian novel Darke etc.

  17. I live in Greenville County, SC which was the country’s WORST county for staying home as detailed in a New York Times article last week. It looked bad as we averaged 3.2 miles per day in our cars. Thing is though, we tried to make BMW X series SUVs at home in our garages and then assemble everything in the BMW parking lot, but it just didn’t work. Neither did 3D printers. (BMW shut down at the end of March). We also are the rail terminus for the Port of Charleston and have more warehouse space under cover than the city of Chicago – per an article in the Wall Street Journal. Those warehouses are still receiving and transshipping goods. Our tire plants are still up and running. We can’t, by and large, phone it in.

    I’ve kept track since the NYT article of our family’s comings and goings – drove 3.2 miles after lunch today, as I do 7 days a week – to walk our dog on the very large campus of a church where we can get our mile + in and never come within 100 yards of anyone else. (If you have a Cairn Terrier, you understand why this is desirable). That was preceded today by our now weekly 21 mile round trip drive to a local dairy farm where we buy eggs, butter and produce in support of a local business and so that they don’t end up dumping excess milk and destroying eggs (see today’s digital version of the Wall Street Journal). BTW, we email in our list along with the payment info, back up to their loading dock where they load our purchase into our trunk and off we go.

    A neighbor, two weeks ago, related how the acquaintance of a friend had been laid off from his job and was looking for car detailing work. One does not clean one’s car in the South Carolina Upcountry during the pollen season as one may as well set fire to $20 bills and save the water and sweet tea. Nonetheless, that gentlemen drove 17 miles roundtrip to detail a total of six cars in our neighborhood and made enough in just that one day to compensate for a full week without his normal job. But our daily average suffers as a result. I’ll take that trade-off.

    Hey – we’re not saints in Greenville County and are probably within one standard deviation for what a lot of people are doing in rural America. As cited in the article and in the responses, things are more spread out and are usually not within walking distance. and happily, a lot of us are still working – for the moment.

    Last add: I checked Greenville County on the app John uses – we are currently rated a B, with an improving trend line.

  18. Meanwhile in the UK it seems that some dimwits have been having street parties and football games. BBC local radio reported (IIRC) over a hundred cases in the BBC South area.
    It isn’t very inspiring.

  19. Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t self-isolate.

    Oh, I wouldn’t say that – there are plenty of people on social media who are happy to go on at great length about why rural white people aren’t self-isolating.

  20. (And yes I know you’re The Big Idea and Wendig is 5 things I learned…but my fingers got ahead of my brain cell.)

  21. What jenfullmoon said. Though I guess there’s more to our county than just the town with the university. And not all of the kids have gone home.

  22. I am in Cook County, a very liberal county, and we have a C. But we are also one of the most populous counties in the country and have quite a bit of poverty and food desert issues. We did get an A for our decrease in non-essential travel.

  23. It does give some credence to the idea that to no small extent, the ability to socially distance is a mark of privilege and class.

    Yes and no. NM is either the poorest or second-poorest State in the USA, and and anglos here are decidedly in the minority. Socorro and Catron counties in turn are poor even for NM, but ratea B on that site; the only thing keeping them from an A rating is that dry-country ranching can’t stop for SIP and the distances are really large so drive distances have not dropped much.

    I can say that Governor Lujan Grisham got ahead of the curve and it’s really creepy how thoroughly quiet it’s gotten. Even I-25 is really light, with almost no traffic other than the long-haul trucks.

  24. I also think that daily distance traveled might simply be a less precise measure of social distancing in more rural communities than it is in the city. In the city, every mile you travel outside your home comes with a necessary amount of human contact. There are simply too many people and not enough miles. Where you are it looks like every single person could literally for miles a day without ever coming within 100 yards of another person, never mind 6 feet, so distance traveled just doesn’t mean as much. For more rural areas, I would be interested in seeing data on clusters of cellphones and how those have or haven’t changed. I think that measure would be less meaningful in cities where you have huge clusters even when people are safety ensconced in their own homes.

  25. I’ve spent some time in Flathead and Glacier counties in Montana, and I’m not really sure they’re more urban than Darke county. They’re at a B- and A respectively in that report, so I’m not sure the distance to essential services is the key factor.

  26. We’re a C+ in Alameda CA, but with only 674 confirmed cases so we’re apparently doing something right. There’s a large homeless population here that I worry about but steps are being taken to get them off the streets and into shelter that isn’t tents under the overpass. Also, our little neighborhood stores have been much better-stocked than the big markets. And my farm box appears on the doorstep every 2 weeks. I miss the Farmers’ Market, which is still happening, but they don’t want old at-risk people to go there, and I suppose technically I am one.

  27. The other factor is interstate and other major highways traveling through low-density counties that have a great deal of agricultural traffic. Wallowa County (Oregon) is pulling a B, but that reflects the absence of tourist traffic as April is about the time that tourism kicks in. It also reflects the absence of spring sports and school. Meanwhile the next two counties over, Union and Umatilla, are Ds…and have I-84 running through them.

    We are getting some early summer people in, according to the neighbor who runs one of the local internet companies (recurring seasonal accounts that get turned on and off). But our county has shut down lodging–essential travelers (workers and truckers) only. Since we’re at a dead end 70 miles off the interstate, that’s gotta be done.

  28. It will be a 5G revolution, and we are all in it. I haven’t owned a cell phone in ten years, and I am still staying home as much as possible. I will bet that pisses off both the affluent and the poor alike.

  29. TIL I live in the same county as John Scalzi. Blew my mind!

    I know of several churches in the county who are outright ignoring the social distancing order, almost if they believe they are immune..

  30. Looking at the divide between essential and nonessential trips (which your county has an F in) in your screenshot, I wonder how they measure that. Time to see if the website has more info.

  31. “Beating the dead horse of who to blame”?

    As long as scores of people die that didn’t have to, that “dead horse” will get beat till it wakes to get beat back to death.

    And I don’t buy for a second that the blaming and horse beating wouldn’t be in overdrive if a democrat were at the helm; even now, against the backdrop of scant testing, mobile morgues and overwhelmed funeral homes, Kool-Aid guzzlers are retreating behind Ebola and Swine Flu related whataboutism.

    Still others are jumping all over the heads of New York’s governor and mayor for their failure to respond in a timely enough fashion.

    Yet even those hot, sticky, wreaking failures don’t exculpate Trump and his crew from ultimate complicity in the madness. Sorry.

    The Ebola and Swine Flu crises (and they’ll have been exponentially less deadly than this one, at least in the United States) are most definitely over and shouldn’t be rehashed.

    The federal response to the Covid 19 pandemic, however, has cost many lives and is occurring under a republican president and was so bungled that it should be considered an act of domestic terrorism in which said republican president, certain governors, and other pandemic-deniers are knowingly complicit. That’s probably the toughest, most bitter pill certain folks ever swallowed, but thems the breaks.

    Critics should put and keep their feet on the necks of the responsible parties as long as the effects and ripple effects of this tragedy persist and get exacerbated by misinformation, ideology-based stubbornness, and governmental ineptitude at multiple levels. Thus, the media’s critically important and perfectly appropriate focus on Trump and co.’s perpetual failures is the least of what he and they deserve.

    No one, least of all the victims (victims specifically meaning small business owners, unemployed folks, and dead/dying/imperiled citizens and essential workers and their families etc.) have a responsibility to be gracious in this instance, especially when the PPE they require is being intercepted and confiscated by feds because “it’s [their] stockpile (Kushner).

    I also love how the same flat-earthers and conspiracy theorists who laughed at and decried the “hysterical” “liberal” response to the pandemic now want to either gloss over the profound and far reaching consequences of doing so or attribute said consequences to people who have little to nothing to do with them.

    I’d like to see any one of them stand in front of this mother and explain to her about Obama, the WHO, liberal hoaxes, and “backups” “What did [she] have to lose?”


    Stand before the families of other dead or dying essential workers who had children who were going to be hungry, homeless, or without water, power, and gas if they didn’t head, unprotected, into the petri-dishes that were their places of employment. Until you do, don’t cry for that dead horse or whine about blame games your side can’t win.

    People should only let up on that horse when people start doing their jobs, and not a second before.

  32. I wondered why King Country (WA) is only getting a C+ when travel is down 55-70% and non-essential visits are down >70%. It’s because the number of interactions depends on the population density, and King Country is heavily populated, making interactions much harder to avoid, even if you only go out once a week to the grocery store.

    As someone who grew up driving to the next state for groceries, I appreciate how even the basics of life can be a surprisingly long drive.

  33. Adams County Colorado has a Grade D. All of their elected officials are in the Democratic Party. It is a mix of urban on the west side but also mainly agricultural. Technically yes the airport at Denver is surrounded by Adams County but it is Denver County. I would suggest then that these metrics which purport to show social distancing need to be taken with a grain of salt given where highways, airports, farming, and urban communities are. And party has zero to do with it.

  34. @John

    As a head’s up, thinking you should warn your nice readers about what’s going to happen in June. Not joking, we spend a lot of time with data streams. The kind that sees Trn moves and so on. If you knew how ‘on fire’ the Finance people are right now, you’d probably be a bit scared.

    USA just hit ~14-17 mn unemployed and will hit (loads of smart money here working numbers) approx 30-40 by like… a couple of weeks. (Yeah: if your system can only process a max # of 6.6 mn then.. that’s all it will report).

    You’re about to experience the CCCP 89-94 period. Not fucking around. This is by design and it’s all modeled out and it includes a ‘death tranch’ that you ‘nice’ people cannot comprehend (yeah – and Vietnam and Cambodia only killed Americans, right?)


    Gear them up and girdle their loins. By June, it will make the LA Riots look tame looking at the real numbers, and this is Trumpionios plan. They’re gonna ramp it up and watch the fireworks then state: “Well, poor old Fuddle-Dudldled Joe “son smoked crack” Biden can’t handle this chaos – but we can, we’re Mafia” (It’ll get tarted up a little).

    Oh, and remember that conversation about Dragons and Symbiosis?

    Should have run with Anne McCaffrey.

    No, really.

    We asked nicely: whoever that woman editor was responded badly: now you deal with it. And J. Biden: did sexually molest a woman.

    Not. Even. Being.Funny.


    And John: we like your books. But they didn’t predict shit. We just like you SF authors, consider it one of those “Easter Eggs” when you spot reality doing it. It’s not you, it’s US. We’re just showing you all how much we love you while we break things.


    Yeah. 100% Match True.

  35. Hey, kid. Know you got the job from pop, and you’re doing well in Uni (well).

    Clean up that last comment and post it please. It’s serious and John’s readers should have access to it. If you want it cleaned up + sources, then we can do that. You’re not going to believe the sources, but they’re all major finance / .mil sources.

    We can dump you a reference to reality.


    We’re not joking: this is not Disney. This is real world, and reality, about to hit all you nice people like a Tsunami.

  36. After a month of closures in my home county, the low increase in cases and few deaths relative to the number of cases, the empty streets and businesses in my home county and town, contrasted to the abysmal score received in this quoted site, I have little or no confidence in its ratings.

  37. In my county, Hartford, CT we rank a “C” with an upwards arrow. Kind of find it surprising, since the capitol has the highest concentration of state office buildings, etc, so you figure a lot of people (like myself) would be working from home. But on the other side of the coin, Hartford does have one of the highest tax rates in the state and the most social services available, so you have people being both pro-socializing and anti-socializing at the same time.

  38. I don’t fully understand the various metrics used for this. I see distance traveled mentioned frequently. If I hop in the car and travel 10 miles to get groceries,its not like I am leaving a trail of car exhaust and COVID19 nasties in my wake. In this regard I think its the numbers of times leaving ones ‘lock-down’ and how many visits to some facility where other people are encountered would be a better metric. Maybe they did and I just missed it.

  39. My county got a C. My partner and I only go out for medicals and to the grocery store once a week. This hasn’t changed very much since the before times, except we used to go out to a few entertaining lectures and classes. And we get up early and go to the seniors and immunocompromised grocery hour. Wearing train-robber bandanna masks.
    Maybe we can’t decrease our interactions very much because they were already low enough.
    What has changed is that I spend hours in parking lots during my partner’s medicals, and I worry obsessively about some chart I tried to read in Italian about the spike in deaths from covid19 and the four times higher spike in deaths from all causes during the same time period. That spike may be people like my partner, trying to get cancer care in the time of Covid19.

  40. As for blaming and federal incompetence, I will scrutinize the full story in the newspaper tomorrow.
    This morning on the radio is a story that military medical intelligence, in both Canada and the U.S., was sending detailed warnings up their respective chains of command back in 2019. In Canada, there is no evidence that the Department of National Defence passed the information on to public health, which is the body in charge of this crises.

  41. Yeah, that metric works best to say “who has stopped commuting to their job” and doesn’t describe much else about social distancing. My area gets high marks, but I bet it has more foolish 20 year olds getting together for covid parties than your county does.

  42. I wonder if their methods account for people in rural areas needing to move around more, quarantine or no.

  43. I get what they’re trying to do, but that is clearly less than ideal data. They never specify what assumptions they’re making, nor is there validation of cell-phone travel as a proxy for actual travel, etc. It can tell us where there is change, but nothing about who or why. That the map tends to put regional areas into the same range is ambiguous at best.

    But, yeah, Darke County sounds cool.

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