Busy lakes challenge Minnesotans practicing social distancing

Governor Walz says social distancing is the most important way to buy more time in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. But, many Minnesotans are still seeing some crowded areas, especially around lakes.

Under the governor's stay at home order, state officials say it's OK to go outside to get some exercise, but the governor says some Minnesotans need to do a better job social distancing.

"This is our chance to get out here and get some sun, enjoy this weather. Spring is here," Molly Reichert said as she walked around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

On a warm spring day, there is nothing like getting outside to take a walk around the lake. But, one of the hottest spots in the city of lakes could be a little too popular during the outbreak of the coronavirus.

"When you are walking on the sidewalks people actually veer off and walk into the road in order to avoid you and keep a safe distance," Reichert said.

Recently, the Minneapolis Park Board closed some parkways to vehicles to allow people walking, running or biking to stay away from others. The governor said it is critical that Minnesotans keep practicing social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Minnesota currently has at least 600 cases of COVID-19.

"We consistently rank as one of the healthiest states because we do a lot of outdoor activities, but we're seeing crowds that are a little too big especially around the lakes...and I would encourage people to continue to think about this and continue to know this is one of the biggest differences we can make," Walz said Tuesday.

Most people we talked to at Lake Harriet said they think they are doing a pretty good job of social distancing. But, our cameras caught groups of people hanging out near the bandshell, and the sheer number of people made it difficult to keep proper distance, especially on the path when passing others.

"We live in the neighborhood, and the foot traffic feels like the biggest, hottest day in July," resident Christine Berg said.

But, state leaders say staying home and avoiding large groups of people outside your immediate family are the best ways to get a handle on the pandemic.

"I don't hope it lasts any longer than it has to, but I'm absolutely prepared to social distance as long as necessary," Reichert said.

One local doctor said the whole point of social distancing is to stay 6 feet away from other people because that's the distance the virus can travel. He said any activity that doesn't allow you to do that probably shouldn't be done.