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Three charts tracking how Minnesotans are – or aren't – socially distancing

Typical Minnesota life ground to a halt when Gov. Tim Walz announced a shelter-in-place order in late March, the strongest tactic so far to combat mounting death tolls from COVID-19 infections across the state.

Signs suggested these measures apparently worked to slow the coronavirus pandemic in Minnesota, and various data show residents have curbed their normal habits in significant ways. Though weeks later, as summer approaches, fewer are staying home as often.

With federal social distancing guidelines in place until at least mid-May and many summer events being canceled entirely, here’s a deeper look at some ways Minnesotans have quarantined themselves against COVID-19:

Minnesota traffic is down, but normalizing

Fewer vehicles have been observed on state roadways, according to Minnesota Department of Transportation data.

Comparing daily traffic volume this year to corresponding days in 2019 shows Minnesota roads were half as busy as the quarantine started. Weekends prior to the lockdown tended to be busier, but weekdays have since seen relatively greater traffic volumes.

Even before the order to stay home took effect by March 28, Minnesotans were already commuting less as employees shifted to working remotely, public events canceled and businesses reduced service or shuttered entirely in response to coronavirus spreading throughout the community.

Since then, traffic levels have started gradually creeping back up.

Phone tracking shows Minnesotans are either homebound or at the park

Some organizations have started using cellphone tracking data to measure how people are social distancing, including Cuebiq, Unacast and Google.

All reveal Minnesotans are venturing outside their homes for usual activities like significantly less than average, and Google's metrics show the impact of transit schedule limitations, closed retail stores and changes to work routines.

However, visits into parks for fresh air, exercise and to walk pets during the quarantine have skyrocketed.

Sheltering efforts have started to slide

Unacast cellphone tracking suggests some Minnesotans could be better about quarantining, as the state's assigned social distancing grade slid from a B in March to a C by April and now a D in May. This is in line with national trends, as Unacast scores the whole United States with an F grade.

Hennepin County received the best grade in the Twin Cities metro area. But data suggests the entire metro has slacked off staying home and refraining from visits to non-essential destinations, while the whole state becomes more active outside since nicer weather arrived.

Some of the previously harsher scores assigned to greater Minnesota might have been skewed by those residents typically traveling further for essential trips to stores or workplaces. Those grades have improved as the lockdowns continue and analyses are adjusted to account for regional differences.

Unacast social distancing grade, May 10, 2020
A B C D F