Data Tells A Story: Life in Quarantine, By the Numbers

A covered car sitting in a parking lot between two empty spots in a parking garage. Only the front of the car is visible in the shadows.

Compiled by 

James Morgan, 

Senior Consulting Editor, ACDS

WHETHER YOU’RE TALKING about your customers, your products, or your processes, the data you gather always tells a story. Maybe it’s one you want to hear, maybe it’s not—but if you intend to deal with your reality, you’d do well to listen. 

Recently, we at ACDS were discussing the hard times so many people are having during this pandemic—the worry, the stress, the depression, the burnout. That’s a story that could be told differently about each individual person. And yet, once you gather pieces of data about all facets of our lives in quarantine, it’s surprising how those numbers, those percentages, evoke a recognizable joint reality. Some of it’s funny, and some is deadly serious—dark, even. But take a look. At least you’ll know you’re not alone. 


Your hair grows, on average, ½ inch per month (American Academy of Dermatology), and the U.S.’s 77,000 beauty salons and 4,500 barber shops were among the first businesses shuttered by government restrictions. (SBDCNet National Information Clearinghouse) 

Alcohol e-commerce retail sales more than doubled in the weeks from March 7 through April 18 compared to the same period a year earlier. (Nielsen)​

On March 12, 2020, toilet paper sales ballooned 734% compared with the same day the previous year. (Fortune, quoting NCSolutions data) 

A National Association for the Education of Young Children survey published March 17 found that of the 6,000 child care providers who responded, 63% said they could survive closure for no more than a month without government help. (USA Today)

In Belgium, a survey was conducted among a representative sample of the population after two weeks of lockdown. In cases where parents were quarantined with children, 28% of quarantined parents warranted a diagnosis of “trauma-related mental health disorder.” (World Economic Forum Covid Action Platform)

By the second week of March, jigsaw puzzle sales were up 300% over the same week the previous year. In the next few weeks, sales by game maker Ravensburger were up 370% year over year in the U.S. (NPR)

Time asleep increased by 20% after a national emergency was declared on March 13. In every state except Hawaii and Alaska, people were sleeping 10% more during that time period. (Evidation Health)

Deirdre Barrett, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, created an online survey to collect the dreams of people living through the coronavirus pandemic. To date she has more than 2,500 responses recounting more than 6,000 dreams. “There’s a big sub-cluster of bug dreams,” says Barrett. “Dozens and dozens of every kind of bug imaginable attacking the dreamer…. The idea of lots of little things that cumulatively can hurt or kill you is really a very good metaphor for the virus particles.” (Harvard Gazette)

Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications rose 34.1% from mid-February to mid-March, including a week-over-week spike of nearly 18% during the week ending March 15, when coronavirus was declared a pandemic. The number of prescriptions filled for antidepressants and sleep disorders increased 18.6% and 14.8%, respectively, from February 16 to March 15. (Express Scripts)

Physical activity levels in the U.S. were down 39% on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, compared to activity recorded on March 1. (COVID-19 Pulse study, conducted by Evidation Health)

The 1.4 million monthly active members of the website “Lose It” reported a 266% increase in candy eating in the last two weeks of March.

By March 23, toilet paper was out of stock at 70% of U.S. grocery stores, including online sellers. (Fortune, quoting NCSolutions data)

Online ticket marketplace TickPick surveyed 1,000 sports fanatics about their attitudes towards the coronavirus pandemic: 84% of respondents said they started taking the virus more seriously after leagues canceled or suspended play, and 66% said they were more stressed following the cancellations. (Forbes Billionaires)

Demand for personal grooming products has dropped precipitously during quarantine, as 25% of personal care—using skincare products, washing hair, or putting on deodorant—is tied to consumers getting ready to go to work or school. (Forbes, quoting consumer goods giant Unilever)

In the week ending April 18, 2020, off-trade spirits sales were up 27.4% compared to the same week a year before. (Nielsen Spirits Business)

Household vehicle travel across the contiguous U.S. declined by 68-72% during the last two weeks in March and the first week of April, compared with the first week in March. (Analysis by StreetLight Data, based on cellphone data)

“Zoom has surpassed 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants, up 50 percent from the 200 million the company reported earlier this month, and a huge jump from the 10 million back in December.” (The Verge, April 23, 2020)

Beginning in March, U.S. adults are spending more than 13 hours per day looking at screens, compared to the 10 hours per day of screen time reported in the second half of 2019. (Eyesafe)

Towards Data Science website researched coronavirus playlists to see what we’re listening to during quarantine. The top five quarantine songs are: “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”; “Toxic”; “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”; “U Can’t Touch This”; and “Stayin’ Alive.”

Bird-watching has soared during the pandemic. In March and April, downloads of the National Audubon Society’s bird identification app doubled over that period last year, and unique visits to its website were up by a half-million. The prestigious Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, has seen downloads of its free bird identification app, Merlin ID, shoot up 102% over the same time last year, with 8,500 downloads on Easter weekend alone. (KVAL TV, Eugene, Oregon)

Amazon reported that it had $75.5 billion in sales in the latest quarter, up 26% from a year earlier. (New York Times, 4/30/20)

Online book sales skyrocketed 777% in the first half of April, compared with the first half of March. Book sales have been driven by juvenile nonfiction in particular, which are up 65% for the six weeks ending April 11. Among adults, however, books about outdoor survival skills are up 74%. (NPD BookScan, quoted in Market Watch

All across the country, Americans are buying guns in record numbers. A New York Times analysis showed nearly two million guns were purchased in March, the second-highest month ever for gun sales. (Rolling Stone)

In March, Niche Partners received survey responses from 80,848 high school and college students, as well as parents, to gauge the impact the COVID-19 global pandemic was having. Among high school seniors:

  • 11% had not yet made their final decision on where to enroll later this year
  • 44% were reconsidering the schools on their list (later responses increased this to 57%)
  • 38% of seniors and 45% of juniors planned to choose a college closer to home than they were going to
  • 8% said they are now more interested in online education (Niche)

“Several weeks ago, one flour company quietly saw its sales skyrocket 2,000 percent. Flour was nowhere to be found in stores, and it soon disappeared from the internet. Quickly, evidence that a person had bought and used flour became proof of her irredeemable profligacy to people who love to get mad online….Never had emotions run so high about milled wheat.” (The Atlantic, May 12, 2020)

Uber Eats has seen more than a 30% increase in orders from independent restaurants since mid-March. “And through the pandemic, people’s cravings have…largely focused on comfort food, with French fries and Crab Rangoon being popular choices.” (Travel & Leisure) In Arkansas, the most popular delivery order has been spring rolls. (Yelp)

A U.S. poll by WebMD confirms national reports from the American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic that people in quarantine are gaining weight. Among U.S. readers who calculated the pounds: 15% said they gained 1-3 pounds; 34% said they gained 4-6 pounds; 26% said they gained 7-9 pounds; 21% said they gained 10-20 pounds; and 4% said they gained 21 pounds or more. (WebMD U.S. reader poll conducted May 17)

Drizly, the alcohol e-commerce platform known as “the Amazon for liquor,” reported during the week of April 26th that sales were up 392% over baseline, or what the company would have expected to normally see in this time period. (Deep Dive, Kantar Insight)

TV station WDRB in Louisville reported that even without fans in the stands, Churchill Downs saw a 183.7% increase in the amount wagered on its opening day this year, as compared with opening day 2019. (Forbes Billionaires)

Toilet Paper Sales were up nearly 71% year over year in the nine weeks through May 2, according to Nielsen. (Fortune)

Amit Sheth, Ph.D., a professor and founding director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of South Carolina, has used artificial intelligence techniques to collect and analyze over 700 million tweets on Twitter and about 700,000 news articles about the COVID-19 pandemic. Sheth’s analysis showed increases in addiction and substance use-related content, which indicates that the public may be self-medicating. (Healthline)

KC Pet Project, a nonprofit animal shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, received 250 requests to foster pets in four days. Usually, getting 10 pets placed in foster homes was a good day for the organization. (New York Times)

Since early March, the average U.S. household is watching about nine more hours of TV a week than before, with viewership rising from 57 hours to 66 hours. (“Today,” reporting data from Comcast)

In April, Netflix had six of the 10 most-watched shows. In order of popularity: “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness”; “Stranger Things”; “Money Heist”; “Ozark”; “The Witcher”; and “Narcos”. (Observer, 5/5/20)

Dry eyes are frequently a result of not blinking enough, and we blink approximately 50% less when staring at screens—just 5-7 times a minute compared to 12-14 times per minute when not looking at screens. (Forbes Billionaires)

In early June, the LSU AgCenter of the Greater New Orleans Area was preparing to launch an online gardening course. They were anticipating 300 students but ended up with more than 30,000 registrations. (Email from LSU AgCenter of Greater New Orleans Area)

The New York Times asked 511 epidemiologists and infectious disease experts when they would feel comfortable resuming activities such as eating at a dine-in restaurant (56% said three to 12 months); attending a sporting event, concert, or play (64% said one year +); and hugging or shaking hands when greeting a friend (42% said one year +; 6% said never again).