Objectives: We study how the state-wide shelter-in-place order affected social distancing and the number of cases and deaths in Texas.

Methods: We use daily data at the county level. The COVID-19 cases and fatalities data are from the New York Times. Social distancing measures are from SafeGraph. Both data are retrieved from the Unfolded Studio website. The county-level COVID-related policy responses are from the National Association of Counties. We use an event-study design and regression analysis to estimate the effect of the state-wide shelter-in-place order on social distancing and the number of cases and deaths.

Results: We find that the growth rate of cases and deaths is significantly lower during the policy period when the percentage of the population that stays at home is highest. The crucial question is whether the policy has a causal impact on the sheltering percentages. The fact that some counties in Texas adopted local restrictive policies well before the state-wide policy helps us address this question. We do not find evidence that this top-down restrictive policy increased the percentage of the population that exercised social distancing.

Discussion: Shelter-in-place policies are more effective at the local level and should go along with efforts to inform and update the public about the potential consequences of the disease and its current state in their localities.


Copyright © 2020 Castaneda and Saygili. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY): http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


Frontiers in Public Health

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Castaneda MA and Saygili M (2020) The Effect of Shelter-in-Place Orders on Social Distancing and the Spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Study of Texas. Front. Public Health 8:596607. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.596607