Effective midnight tomorrow, Minnesota sinks more deeply into the shutdown mode of containment under the executive order promulgated by Governor Tim Walz yesterday. Kevin Roche worked with Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm for several years “a long, long time ago.” He has copied us on his letter to Commissioner Malcolm. As it addresses questions of general interest that we have sought to raise, I am posting it below:
It has been a long time since we have talked and while I hope you are doing well, I am sure it has been a very difficult time. I am writing because I was immensely disappointed in the information Governor Walz presented in the press conference yesterday regarding risk of infection and death rates. I cannot believe he did not know that information was inaccurate and I know you are a person of integrity who I don’t think would knowingly participate in such an inaccurate and anxiety-producing action.
The only model which came close to the infection rates and death rates Governor Walz displayed is the Imperial College model. That model was never peer-reviewed and was instantly discredited by numerous epidemiologists and statisticians. And the lead author of that study, Neil Ferguson, has now repudiated its findings and redone the work, with a finding of infection and death rates a small fraction of those in the original study. And he noted that even the revised death rate should be adjusted downward because many of the patients who would die, would die anyway in the next few months. They are the very ill from multiple pre-existing co-morbidities. All of this information is freely available on the internet, raising significant questions about why the original data were used.
Dr. Birx, who as you know is the coordinator of the national c.oronavirus task force, specifically addressed this model and its progeny in the briefing yesterday and told people to stop using it, that it was inaccurate and unrealistic and was unduly alarming people.
The true rates of infection are likely under 20% and the death rate is a fraction of a percent. The most likely outcome in Minnesota of using a mitigation instead of a suppression strategy is no more than 500 to 1000 deaths, almost all people near the end of life. This matters because you know as well as anyone the public health consequences of a massive recession and the attendant job loss. These enormous public harms must be balanced against whatever lives are saved by locking down the economy.
So I hope you will ask the Governor to correct his misleading statements and reassure the public that the numbers he gave are not a realistic scenario in anyone’s model.