The association between age, COVID-19 symptoms, and social distancing behavior in the United States
David Canning1, Mahesh Karra2, Rashmi Dayalu1, Muqi Guo3, David Bloom3
1Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University, 3Harvard University
Public health authorities recommend that people practice social distancing, especially if they have symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), or are older and more at risk of serious illness if they become infected. We conducted an open online survey of 4,676 U.S. adults aged 18 and older between April 4 and April 7, 2020. We model the effects of age and common COVID-19 symptoms in the last two weeks on going out of the home for non-healthcare reasons the day before taking the survey and the number of close contacts (within 6 feet) that respondents had with non-household members. We find that older people are having significantly fewer close contacts than younger people. We also find that people experiencing shortness of breath are practicing more intense social distancing but those with two other common COVID-19 symptoms, fever and dry cough, are not engaging in greater social distancing.