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New cell phone data shows more and more people not following stay-at-home orders

The number of people social distancing was going up, but in the last couple of weeks, it's started going down.

BETHESDA, Md. — They're calling it quarantine fatigue, and we can see it in the data.

For the first time since the pandemic began, cell phone tracking data shows more and more of us are flouting stay-at-home orders and hitting the road.

The nation's top infectious disease doctor warns this could be a huge problem.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have been crunching anonymous location histories from more than one hundred million cell phones – and what they're finding has them alarmed. "For the first time, we saw a major drop in social distancing behavior," said Lei Zhang, director of the Maryland Transportation Institute, who led the study.

The researchers said the number of people staying home is down nationwide.

If one hundred is everyone staying home all the time, and zero is everyone going out, we were down three points the week before last, and another four points last week.

The biggest drop was in Louisiana, a COVID-19 hot spot.

The scientists said protests have driven up resistance to stay at home orders. But so has good weather and desperation.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is warning that going out is a big mistake: "It could be a rebound to get us right back in the same boat we were in a few weeks ago."

The data from the Maryland Transportation Institute and the Clark Engineering School finds social distancing in the DMV is comparatively high. D.C.'s consistently doing the best, followed by Maryland, and then Virginia.

RELATED: Here's where people in the DMV are staying in – and where they aren't

But even here, the anonymous aggregated data shows a lot of people are still coming and going to New York, Georgia and the rest of the nation. 

"These trips do tend to bring viruses from one place to another," said Zhang.

The scientists warn the more of us who let spring fever pull us out of our homes, the more of us who are likely to get real fevers – and worse – the coronavirus.

The latest local numbers from the survey? Montgomery County got the top local social distancing index at 81. D.C. and Arlington got 80; Fairfax 79, Loudoun 78 and Prince George's 75.

All are doing a whole lot better than the national index of 64.

RELATED: 50% of coronavirus deaths in Maryland from nursing homes, per newly released data

RELATED: Yes, Dr. Fauci was just interviewed by Nationals Ryan Zimmerman. Here's what we learned

RELATED: LIST: Where you can get tested for coronavirus in the DMV

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