Reopening Trends: Consumers Spending More On Gas, Kids Still Home From School

As the U.S. begins procedures to tentatively reopen, the entire country has seen only a few across-the-board trends: namely, that people are filling up their gas tanks more and are still not going to schools.

According to data from mobile phones, people across the nation visited gas stations 19 percent more than in early March when the shutdowns started.

Meanwhile, school attendance was down almost 80 percent since that time as kids are staying at home to learn, with only slight spikes in states like Alabama, Texas and California that allowed limited graduation ceremonies in May.

As restriction orders began to lift, visits to grocery stores saw a minor spike in sales, albeit not to the level of the 17 percent jump in attendance as people flocked to stores in March to stock up on essentials at the beginning of the pandemic.

Every other aspect of life has been piecemeal, varying from state to state.

The number of people going to restaurants is still shaky. In Washington, D.C., where the stay-at-home order won’t lift until June 8, foot traffic to restaurants is still down 66 percent.

In Texas, numbers were still down 20 percent from pre-pandemic levels, though this was a significant improvement from the height of the pandemic, when numbers were down 54 percent. Gov. Greg Abbott’s reopening of the state on May 1 caused a wave of attendance to restaurants.

Travel rates remained low. Even heading into the typically heavy summer tourism season, they are 94 percent lower than before, with planes reporting only an average of 23 people per flight. Experts say the summer vacation could survive, though, predicting that travelers will opt to rent vacation homes rather than visiting crowded hotels.

Attendance at national and state parks was up 21 percent in Wisconsin after they reopened on May 1 and was up 22 percent in Montana, where outdoor recreation was exempted from the shutdown orders.

Nationwide, attendance at bars and pubs was still down 60 percent from early March. However, some pockets of the country saw improvement: Houston and Brooklyn saw slight upticks in activity, and in Alabama, attendance at bars shot up 11 percent higher than it had been on average before the pandemic.