Social Distancing Policies in the USA: Timelines for the 21 Largest Cities in the USA

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Project Details

Social Distancing Policies in the USA: Timelines for the 21 Largest Cities in the USA

Iris Bachmutsky, UCSF,

Moritz Kraemer, University of Oxford,

Heinrich H Nax, University of Zurich,

Franziska Putz, University of Oxford,


April 20, 2020



We contribute to the ongoing effort to map the introduction of social distancing policies at various levels (countries, states, cities, districts, etc.). Here, we focus on the 21 most populated cities in the US, recording when which policy was introduced at the federal, state and municipal level. Our dataset is unique from others that have been made available in that it goes beyond state-level records to include municipality-level measures. To the best of our knowledge, this work offers a greater level of granularity than what current public aggregations provide. Detailed information regarding the timing, severity, and sequence of COVID-19 policy responses is important to assist current containment decisions as well as future work that assesses the effectiveness of different responses and informs plans to prepare for subsequent outbreaks.

Keywords:          Mobility restrictions, Social distancing, Lockdown, Stay-at-home, COVID-19

JEL code(s):        R5

Data description

We draw on various online resources including federal, state and municipal government websites, as well as leading newspapers, etc. to map a timeline of COVID-19 policy responses across the country. For each of the 21 most populated cities in the US, beginning with the first declarations of the State of Emergency at state levels in February 2020 until today (April 20, 2020), we report on the introduction of policies related to social distancing such as public gathering restrictions, school closures, etc. Policies are categorized by level of “severity”. The dataset is made available at GitHub and at the GovLab repository under the same title, and also available on GitHub at

Download the documents related to this project here
Dataset Endogenous Social Distancing