Summer might be canceled, but Minnesotans are distancing less

As COVID-19 lockdowns gradually ease and the aftermath of civil unrest settles, Minnesotans are socially distancing less and are more engaged with summertime activities.

Yet with many summer events canceled, several restrictions still in place and mounting concerns over possible spikes in coronavirus cases, normalcy seems far off, and may not fully return anytime soon.

Data from various sources reveal some ways Minnesotans have started returning to normal routines – and other ways that life remains altered. And if a second viral wave hits later this year, some of these metrics may retreat again.

As new data are obtained, this page may be updated.

Vehicular traffic has roared back

Despite traffic density falling significantly since shelter-in-place orders took effect, Minnesota Department of Transportation daily tracking shows the volume of vehicles now looks more like previous years at this time.

Weekend and holiday activity has been lower than usual since coronavirus struck, partially due to big events being canceled.

Social distancing breaks down

On the whole, Minnesotans are back to typical isolation levels after slacking off for a while. Unacast, a company tracking social distancing with cellphone data, shows Minnesota's grade slid from a B in March to and F by June – where much of the United States sits now.

By July's start, Minnesota had reached a D, which was average for the whole country at the time. It's since fallen to an F.

Unacast social distancing grades for Minnesota
  • Mar. 28


  • Apr. 25


  • May 13


  • June 20


  • July 4


  • July 29


And Google data shows where Minnesotans are going: mostly to parks and other recreation areas to take advantage of Minnesota's summer weather.

Minnesotans are also going to retail stores about 19% less than normal, but that’s a big jump from late March when it was 58% below normal, according to Google’s tracking data.

Restaurant diners are returning, slowly

Bars and restaurants may be missing typical crowds for a while, even with the reopening of indoor and outdoor dining.

But even with restrictions placed on restaurants in terms of distancing and reservations, numbers from OpenTable show patrons are piling back into sit-down eating establishments after months of most places being either closed or confined to takeout and delivery.

This return slowed down a bit the past week, particularly in Minneapolis compared to statewide and national trends.

Buses and trains remain emptier

Mandatory safety precautions and service reductions continue for Metro Transit across the Twin Cities area. That, combined with continued work-from-home arrangements, have depressed ridership on buses and light rail.

Ridership ceased completely as Metro Transit shut down over the period of unrest and curfews enforced shortly after the death of George Floyd, but has since bounced back to prior levels.