How a pandemic changed Long Island’s movements

Below is a Long Island breakdown of Google’s Community Mobility Report, which charts movement trends over time across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential. It’s charts-galore, so before you look, we want to highlight some guidance on how to read them and what to keep in mind.

As you look through the charts, you will notice that both Nassau County and Suffolk County trend the same way. The dips and rises go nearly hand-in-hand.

However, they do differ in some regards.

Generally, Nassau County seems to have larger declines all across the board accompanied by a higher growth in the residential category.

This seemingly implies that Suffolk County is, compared to its baseline, less “shut down” compared to Nassau County.

Suffolk County has also seen much larger spikes in park usage.

Some caveats

  • The data is based on Google’s Location History feature – which may not be accurately represent Long Island
  • Apple released some data, but lacks county-level details for us to parse
  • Nassau and Suffolk County have slightly differing industries, and this would affect how “shut down” they compare to each other

Retail and recreation

By March 22, when Governor Cuomo imposed an official stay at home order, retail mobility activity has already plummeted by 50%. We see the drop starting on March 12, which was when New York implemented a limit on gathering sizes and recorded 325 COVID-19 cases.

Grocery and pharmacy

Coinciding with the drop in most other activities, we see a spike around March 12 where grocery and pharmacy activity jumped. It was around this time that many locations had toilet paper shortages.


Park activity tracks fairly closely with weather patterns, with more activity on days with higher temperatures or sunnier skies.

Transit stations

LIRR ridership in March and April took a nosedive. While there are other transit stations that would be included in Google’s mobility data, the LIRR acts as the veins of Long Island – powering its workforce and economy.


We see that workplace activity started to drop around March 7, when Nassau County had four confirmed COVID-19 cases and declared a state of emergency.


March 12 onwards, we see a large increase in residential activity. This should come as little surprise as March 12 was when New York started implementing stricter policies and guidelines to combat the pandemic.