The ongoing and growing protests demanding states reopen beaches, parks, and other public spaces; notwithstanding, social distancing remains the most effective way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

While some people may enjoy the opportunity to stay in more, many are negatively affected by the new constraints on their social life, jobs, exercise regimens, shopping opportunities, and more.

With more than a third of Americans saying the COVID-19 crisis has hurt their mental health, according to a recent poll from the American Psychiatric Association.

To find out where social distancing is most difficult, District-based personal finance company WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 13 key metrics.

The data set ranges from whether residents have supportive relationships to how non-essential travel has changed due to the pandemic and how much consumers spent on social activities before COVID-19.

In addition to its report, WalletHub also released a “Social Distancing Survey,” which examines how Americans’ attitudes and behaviors have changed during this period of self-isolation.

The first study revealed that District residents might be among those who struggle the most with social distancing because the nation’s capital ranks first in money spent on social activities.

The District also ranked third — behind New Hampshire and South Dakota — in the longest time spent per day on socializing and communicating.

The District has the highest travel and tourism spending per capita in the nation, further underscoring that residents aren’t used to social distancing. “One issue I have thought about lately is the idea of ‘diffusion of benefits,’” said David Weisburd, a WalletHub expert and a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society, and executive director of The Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

“This is a term that I developed with a colleague regarding crime prevention in the late 1990s,” Weisburd said. “What we noted is that many crime prevention efforts have unanticipated benefits that do not relate to the direct targets of the intervention.

“In prevention, that means that when you focus on a specific place, for example, other areas may improve as well,” he said. “I don’t think that there has been enough thinking as of late of the diffusion of benefits of the coronavirus prevention efforts — like reductions in crime, auto accidents, pollution, etc.

“On the other side, we also need to think about the increases in other problems like suicide, depression, etc.,” Weisburd said. “To gain a full view of the cost and benefits of this intervention, we have to take into account both diffusion and these negative consequences.

“And another issue that has struck me is that with all of the investment in medical research, our main prevention approach right now is for everyone to shut in at home,” he said. “It works, which is great, but the costs are tremendous, both socially and economically. Why haven’t we developed more sophisticated prevention or containment mechanisms? Why are we in this situation? It does seem that we could have done better.”

To view the complete study, click here.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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