MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Tuesday, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said social distancing is “having a positive impact” on keeping down the number of COVID-19 cases.

It’s not easy to measure how well Minnesotans are staying at home, but there are some metrics to check out.

So, how well are we social distancing? Good Question.

Despite some reports of busy lakes, sometimes crowded stores or outdoor gatherings, Minnesota officials say social distancing is slowing the spread.

“You’re making a difference and you are certainly saving lives,” said Governor Tim Walz during his State of the State address.

Two weeks ago, investigators at the University of Washington forecasted Minnesota would have about 2,000 COVID-19 deaths into the summer. They’ve revised that number to 625 on Tuesday. Minnesota officials have called that model optimistic.

The impact can be seen on Minnesota roads. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, traffic was down statewide between 50% and 60% over the past week.

Data shows fevers in Minnesota are down as well. Health company Kinsa tracks people’s temperatures and found fewer fevers compared to what Minnesotans would normally have this time of year.  That means that illnesses not related to COVID-19, like influenza or colds, are down too.

“By not interacting in the same way, you’re breaking the chain of infection,” said Nita Nehru, Kinsa’s director of communications and partnerships.

Minnesotans are also making fewer trips. Google anonymously tracks people’s locations and has created to Community Mobility Reports to track movement trends over time. In the last few days of March, Minnesotans were making 58% fewer trips to retail locations and 35% fewer trips to grocery stores and pharmacies. Trips to transit stations are down 64% and trips to workplaces have dropped 38%.

Unacast has also released data collected anonymously through cellphones. They’ve found non-essential visits over the past week are down 65% to 70%. The company gave Minnesota a grade that wavered between B and C over the past week. The rest of the US received a solid C on mobility.

In his briefing on Tuesday, Governor Walz said Minnesotans are following the rules when it comes to social distancing. He followed up now is not the time to stop – even with the holidays approaching.

“We hear you on this, we know it’s an important time, we simply want to keep the progress we’re making going,” Governor Walz said.

Heather Brown

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