Coronavirus in one state (10)

Minnesota authorities held their briefing as scheduled yesterday (video below). The Department of Health has posted the materials made available here. It includes
technical documentation, Power Point slides, and FAQs. If they put their cards on the table, they seem to be dealing from a stacked deck.

The Star Tribune’s Jeremy Olson and Christopher Snowbeck report on the briefing in “Minnesota officials unveil modeling behind state’s COVID-19 strategy.” They play straight men who confine themselves to restatement and regurgitation: “The researchers ran dozens of models under different scenarios, though [Minnesota State Health Economist Stefan] Gildemeister said they focused on solutions that were likely in a democratic U.S. compared to stern measures in authoritarian countries such as China. Takeaways included that the most effective strategies included the expansion of intensive care beds and the restrictions on people at greatest risk.”

Olson and Snowbeck note but make nothing of this glaring phenomenon: “Minnesota’s COVID-19 case count on Friday included outbreaks involving at least one staff member or resident of 55 congregate care facilities. Five of the seven newly reported deaths on Friday involved such residents, almost all of whom are older and have other medical problems. The median age of deaths in Minnesota is 87, compared to the median age of lab-confirmed cases at 51.”

They add: “What happens after the extended stay-at-home order ends May 4 is unclear. The modeling that most closely resembled the governor’s order not only included an extension for four weeks for the entire state, but then lesser social distancing requirements for everyone through June 6, and stay-at-home restrictions that would continue for at-risk individuals until much later in the summer.”

Olson and Snowbeck offer more in the way of restatement and regurgitation. Our friends Brian Sullivan and Kevin Roche have followed along and responded to my request for their comments. Brian is the founder and chief executive officer of a sophisticated biomedical cancer research company. Brian writes:

The model Governor Walz used to shut-down our economy projects 22,000 Minnesotans will die from the virus, regardless of how long the shut-down lasts. So far, 57 Minnesotans have died. At a time when the epidemic’s curve has been flattening for weeks, Governor Walz expects us to believe that 21,943 more Minnesotans will die over the next few months.

According to IHME, Bill Gates’ model, Iowa is only projecting 743 deaths through July, even though they have NOT implemented a drastic shut-down policy. Peel back the numbers and you find that Governor Walz’s model projects 4,000 of every 1 million Minnesotans will die, 17 times more than the 235 deaths per million projected for Iowa. Is he so clueless that he really believes this?

Just because Minnesotans are nice, doesn’t mean we are stupid. Governor Walz’s model is a fraudulent tool designed to scare us into accepting a misguided policy that is destroying the livelihoods and savings of hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. The Governor needs to discard this model, drop the axe he has taken to the economy, and implement a smarter, more targeted mitigation strategy to protect those most vulnerable to the virus.

Kevin Roche is the former general counsel of UnitedHealthGroup and chief executive officer of its Ingenix division. Kevin also observes: “The most notable thing in the presentation is how little difference there is in total deaths among various mitigation strategies. And the one I have been pushing, target protecting older people has the same effect as making everyone stay home.”

After seeing the Star Tribune story this morning, Kevin wrote to add: “I can’t tell you how angry I was to wake up and see the Star Tribune headline this morning. I should have said ‘Governor Ordered Shutdown Without Any Consideration Of Harms From Order’ or ‘Models Say More Limited Shutdown Would Work as Well as the One the Governor Ordered.’ This is a complete travesty. Nothing makes my blood boil like misleading the public.”

Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson commented at the request of Minnesota state representative Mary Franson in the tweet below.

My own observation is that we seem to have a nursing home crisis. Nursing home patients need to be isolated and protected. By the same token, the rest of us need to be protected from them. Why this calls for the shutdown of economic activity in the state is beyond me, anyway.

A reader writes to call for more reporting on the nursing home phenomenon:

The Department of Human Services and the Department of Health know full well how these outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living facilities occur and they are not necessarily by staff transmission or a lack of infection control. Did you know that there is a segment of the population that does not have to adhere to the Stay at Home order? Did you know that they go out into the community every single day, then return to where they live and potentially expose others who live there and the staff who work there? They refuse medical treatment, quarantine orders, increased hygiene needs, the use of masks and are protected by MDH and DHS every single day. I know this. I work with this every day. The community based spread in Minnesota will not stop as they allow known carriers to roam. They have no intentions of stopping them. Providers are told every week that they cannot protect their staff or other people living in the same facility from the actions of these individuals….

Video of the briefing is below.

UPDATE: Kevin Roche expands on his thoughts above in his Healthy Skeptic Post “Minnesota madness” and in the Alpha News column here.