COVID-19: How Rich Were Able to Stay Safer Than Poor in Colorado

Wealthier Coloradans were better able to follow the recently concluded stay-at-home order than those with far fewer resources. As a result, richer residents stayed safer from the brutal first wave of the coronavirus pandemic than did poorer ones.

This is among the takeaways from "Colorado Mobility Patterns During the COVID-19 Response," a fascinating new report from a Colorado Public Health group made up of modeling scientists from the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, joined by team members affiliated with the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Denver and Colorado State University under the leadership of CSU's Jude Bayham.

The crew used cell phone data to track mobility patterns in Colorado during the outbreak's early stages — a technique that's proving fruitful during this strange period. (Research by the progressive Committee to Protect Medicare recently applied the approach to anti-lockdown protests, resulting in a Guardian report that in the days after the "Operation Gridlock" protest at the Colorado State Capitol on April 19, participants headed from Denver to Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah, raising the specter that they may have picked up the virus here and taken it back to their home states.)

Among other things, the Colorado study looked at the hours that residents of this state spent at home by income level. The time was highest for those with the most resources, while those in lower brackets were able to stay at home less frequently. Those with household incomes of more than $100,000 topped the roster, followed by those bringing home $75,000 to $100,000; $25,000 to $75,000; and finally, below $25,000.

Behavior differences among Coloradans of different ages were much in evidence, too, but the pattern isn't nearly as neat.

Residents between the ages of 15 and 29 spent the least time at home, but folks age 60 and above were out more often than were people between 30 and 59 — what are typically thought of as an individual's prime employment years. In all likelihood, though, many of those in the last category were able to work remotely rather than heading into offices that may have been closed under the stay-at-home order.

Another telling graphic involves the number of daily visits that Coloradans made to grocery stores. In March, during the peak of panic buying related to the pandemic, around 8 percent of Denver residents went to the market every single day. The numbers were lower for three other Colorado counties — Eagle, Larimer and Mesa — but in each, daily visits began creeping up as April turned to May.

And then there are the restaurant stats. Eateries were closed to on-site dining during the stay-at-home order, and that's still true for most of the state under Colorado's current safer-at-home program — although on May 18, Governor Jared Polis hinted heavily that restaurant reopenings under new guidelines, including a greater emphasis on outdoor service, are likely to happen by month's end.

Nonetheless, a hefty percentage of residents in Denver, Eagle, Larimer and Mesa continued to patronize restaurants offering curbside pick-up and delivery on a daily basis.

Such loyalty suggests that there is indeed pent-up demand for restaurant dining in Colorado — especially for those who still have money to spend despite the economic havoc already wreaked by COVID-19.

Click to read "Colorado Mobility Patterns During the COVID-19 Response."