Coronavirus in one state

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz entered a stay-at-home executive order that will deepen the destructive economic impact of our current shutdown. The stated purpose of the order is to slow the spread of the Wuhan virus: “Recent developments, including the presence of community spread in Minnesota, the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases both globally and in Minnesota, and the first COVID-19 related death in our state, require Minnesota to take additional proactive measures to slow the spread of this pandemic. Slowing the community spread of COVID-19 is critical to ensuring that our healthcare facilities remain able to accommodate those who require intensive medical intervention.”

The order is premised on modeling performed by state and University of Minnesota public health experts. According to the modeling as reported by the Star Tribune, “up to 2.4 million Minnesotans could become infected with COVID-19[.]” Further, “researchers roughly calculated that 74,000 Minnesotans would have died if no community mitigation measures had been taken, including limitations on crowd sizes and closing schools, restaurants and bars.”

The implication is that we have been “doing nothing.” We have been “doing something” for the past few weeks. A full set of the governor’s executive orders is accessible here. Among those insulated from the new regime established by Walz’s order are “[p]roviders of, and workers supporting, reproductive health care,” i.e., abortion services — in the interest of protecting life, of course.

There is reasonable ground to wonder whether the projections on which the governor has relied comport with reality. Even assuming a 40 percent infection rate premised on “doing nothing,” the virus does not appear to have a fatality rate of 3 percent of those infected. The true fatality rate appears to be substantially lower. See, for example, the Wall Street Journal column by Eran Bendavid and Jay Bhattacharya. For more on modeling issues, see here.

Current data compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health reflect these numbers: 11,000 tests, 287 positive, one death. The data also reflect a total of 35 cases requiring hospitalization, including 26 hospitalized as of today.

Our friend Brian Sullivan comments: “In other words, Walz used ‘experts’ who thought the virus could kill 1.3% of all Minnesotans, or 3% of those infected, as their starting point. I think we need some new experts.”

The Star Tribune appears to be in the business of suppressing discussion of the underlying issues. See, for example, the case of Kevin Roche (part 1, part 2, and part 3). In its editorial this morning, the Star Tribune cheerleads for the governor and scorns anyone who questions the wisdom of our current course.

In the lingo of the day, New York represents a hot spot for transmission of the Wuhan virus: New York’s 30,811 COVID-19 cases are nearly 10 times more cases than the nearest states. Serious practical action to protect Minnesotans from the spread of the Wuhan virus should address the immediate shutdown of travel between New York and Minnesota. Short of that, we might wonder why efforts are not focused on the protection of the subset of our population whose lives are most at risk (“the most vulnerable,” as Walz puts it).

NOTE: Below is the video of Walz announcing his new executive order yesterday. He discusses the data and the model on which his order is premised (“no mitigation” versus “significant mitigation”). He promotes “smart mitigation” as he plays for time. He describes the order as what he’s “asking” us to do.

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