Still the state with the lowest infection rate, MN social distancing falls just above average

The term “social distancing” has become a phrase used in everyday conversations with the COVID-19 pandemic’s rapid spread. But the term – which refers to both staying inside your home and to keeping adequate spacing between yourself and others in public – became a brief note of positivity in Minnesota on March 26, when a data company awarded the state with a grade “A” in social distancing.
By finding ways to cope with social distancing, students were a part of that positive grade.

“I have been going on runs,” senior Will Rathmanner said, “it’s fun and comforting to be one of the few people on the street.”
The data company Unacast has been tracking the movement of Americans since the pandemic hit. With this data they created a scoreboard, giving “A” grades to states that exhibited a 40% or greater decrease in social movement in response to COVID-19. On March 26 with a 46% movement decrease, Minnesota was one of those states. Yet as of April 16, the state has hit a C+.
While Minnesota’s original grade seemed to lower the spike in overall deaths in the state, the recent dip could cause more. The details of when the social distancing period will be over are still unknown.
Despite the recent downgrade, Governor Tim Walz believes Minnesotans are for the most part, making the right decisions.

“I think there’s enough there that I certainly am confident that the decisions that we’re making around social distancing are the right decisions,” Walz said.

I think there’s enough there that I certainly am confident that the decisions that we’re making around social distancing are the right decisions.”

— Govenor Tim Walz

But why were Minnesotans so good at social distancing? And what has happened since then? A large reason for the original decrease in movement likely stems from Governor Walz’s stay at home order which required the closure of all non-essential businesses and travel. But another growing understanding centers around the culture of the state. Some have even speculated that the classic “Minnesota Nice” trope extends to COVID-19. While unstudied, it is possible that Minnesota’s compliance is in part due to the genuine care people feel for their communities.

“The reason that I am complying with social distancing is so I myself do not get COVID-19 but also so I don’t spread it to my family and others…stay safe,” junior Noah Lindeman said.

Furthermore, Minnesota has shown a history of cracking down on pandemics. During the 1918 Spanish Flu, Minneapolis shut down its schools, churches and other large venues early and was rewarded for their prompt response with a lower death rate than similar cities.

It remains unclear as to why Minnesota’s brief positive grade has dropped, yet Minnesotans remain hopeful that the state can continue to social distance well.
“I really hope Minnesotans continue to use their common sense to social distance,” Rathmanner said, “I think that would give me a small chance at a somewhat normal summer.”
As of now, Governor Walz’s stay at home order has been extended to May 4. For Minnesotans who would like to check social distancing standards, the Unacast tracker updates daily.