Tech. Science. Culture.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Drones Capture Video of Nearly Empty American Cities in Lockdown

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

At least 80 million Americans are in some form of lockdown as many cities and states urge people to stay home during the covid-19 pandemic. As people stay inside, cities that are usually bustling with activity have begun to look deserted. Drone operators have captured these scenes of empty parks, vacant stadiums, and silent streets—videos that can only be described as surreal.

To be clear, the empty streets are a very good thing for the health and safety of all Americans. At least 35,225 people have tested positive for covid-19 in the United States, and there have been 471 deaths, with things only expected to get worse this week. Social distancing, a term for keeping people away from one another, is the only proven way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The videos may seem eerie, but they’re a good sign that Americans are starting to take the threat seriously. Below we have some of the drone videos that have been posted to YouTube over the weekend.

Los Angeles, California

California’s 40 million residents are all being told to stay home, enduring a kind of soft lockdown that still allows people to leave their homes for exercise, food, and medicine. Footage captured from around the state is shocking, especially in enormous cities like LA.


Drone video from the city even shows a completely empty Santa Monica Pier, a bizarre sight for anyone who knows just how busy that place can get.

California currently has at least 1,813 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 35 deaths. Los Angeles County has 409 cases and five of those deaths, with the latest a man over 65 years old in Culver City.

Boston, Massachusetts

Massachusetts declared a state of emergency on March 10, but it has yet to issue a lockdown order. But even without the government order, video shows that people in Boston are staying home.


“Massachusetts is not planning any forced shelter-in-place order,” Governor Charlie Baker said late last week. “We have shut down enormous parts of our economy in our communities across the commonwealth. We are very much in social distancing and shutdown mode here in Massachusetts based on what we’ve already done.”

Massachusetts currently has at least 646 confirmed cases of covid-19 and a total of 5 deaths. Three of those deaths were announced on Sunday.

Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee Governor Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order on Sunday limiting the activity of some restaurants and closing gyms. Restaurants are banned from doing sit-down dining but can provide drive-through, takeout, and delivery service. Video from Nashville shows a smattering of cars, but very few people on the streets over the weekend.


Tennessee currently has at least 505 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 2 deaths.

New York, New York

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered a virtual lockdown of the state’s residents, and drone video from New York City shows empty streets, empty sidewalks, and very few people anywhere in the normally packed city.


New York state currently has at least 16,916 cases and 153 deaths, with the vast majority of those in New York City. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said Sunday night that the city has roughly a third of the country’s cases, warning that “the worst is yet to come.”

New Orleans, Louisiana

Louisiana currently has 837 confirmed cases and 20 deaths—disturbing numbers relative to its small population. Governor John Bel Edwards warns that coronavirus cases are rising at an alarming rate.


“There is no reason to believe that we won’t be the next Italy,” Edwards said at a news conference on Sunday. “We have the fastest growth rate of confirmed cases in the world in the first 13 days right here in Louisiana.”

“In the last two weeks our growth rate has been faster than any state or country in the world,” he said. “This is why it matters.”


Drone video from New Orleans posted to YouTube over the weekend shows some of the city’s most iconic streets devoid of people. With even stronger social distancing measures going into place as of 5 p.m. local time Monday, things should be even more quiet soon.

San Francisco, California

Video from San Francisco shows iconic tourist sites like Fishermen’s Wharf devoid of people, following a shelter-in-place order from Governor Gavin Newsom on March 19.


Another video from the Washington Post shows San Francisco from the ground, a lonely experience to be sure.

California currently has at least 1,816 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 35 deaths.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered all casinos in the state closed last Tuesday, a drastic move that’s intended to save lives. It’s not clear when the casinos may open again.


“These were the hardest decisions to make,” Sisolak said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “I know that gaming and hospitality is the lifeblood of our state.”

Drone video from Las Vegas shows the city’s iconic strip with very few cars and even fewer people. Nevada currently has at least 191 confirmed cases and two deaths.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Drone video of Ann Arbor, Michigan, show a fair number of cars, but very few people walking the streets.


“Now, the virus is still spreading, as we knew that it would, and so I want to encourage all residents—children, seniors and everybody in between—to stay at home,” Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said in a video livestream over the weekend.

“You can take a break,” Taylor said, urging people to go out only for the essentials. “But as you do so, be safe. Avoid small gatherings. This is not a time for playgrounds or playdates. Limiting our interactions to meet our essential needs is critical to slowing the spread of the virus.”


Michigan currently has at least 1,038 confirmed cases of covid-19 and nine deaths.

Sacramento, California

And here’s Sacramento, California, the state capital, which has at least 53 cases in the county and three deaths, two of which are tied to the Faith Presbyterian Church.


California as a whole currently has at least 1,816 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 35 deaths.

Michigan City, Indiana

Drone video of Michigan City, Indiana, shows that even relatively small towns are shutting down and encouraging people to stay at home to weather the pandemic.


Indiana currently has at least 204 confirmed cases and 7 deaths.

Pinellas County, Florida

And here’s video of Treasure Island Beach in Pinellas County, Florida, just a day after the beach was ordered closed.


Beaches in Miami looked like this on Saturday, the day before they were closed. And below is what the beach in Clearwater, Florida, looked like on Friday, with plenty of people lounging without a care in the world.

People visit Clearwater Beach during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic March 20, 2020 in Clearwater, Florida.
People visit Clearwater Beach during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic March 20, 2020 in Clearwater, Florida.
Photo: Getty Images

Florida currently has at least 1,007 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 13 deaths.