Coronavirus in one state (24)

The number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 fell to 14, from 23 the day before. It was the first such fall in a week. We can only hope that it isn’t a one-off. The total deaths attributed to the virus as of early this morning is 286.

In yesterday’s daily briefing, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm provided an update on the data. Twelve of the 14 new decedents were residents of long-term care facilities. Of the 14 new decedents, she reported, six were in their 90’s, one in his 80’s, three in their 70’s, three in their 60’s, and one in his 50’s (“also a long-term care resident”). Malcolm did not report that the median age of decedents rose yesterday, from 83 to 86 (screenshot below from current Situation Update), but that is the case.

Several questions addressed the nursing home crisis. Over the last 7 days, by my count, 127 out of 144 decedents died in long-term care (i.e., 88 percent). I had a question of my own that I submitted to Commissioner Malcolm following the briefing. This is the question and the answer, courtesy of MDH press officer Doug Schultz (the emphasis is Schultz’s):

Power Line: “Referring to the 286 total deaths to date, I note that every decedent under age 70 has died in long-term care or similar setting. The youngest person to die outside long-term care was in his 70’s. Why is it necessary to close the schools and shut down the state to protect the at-risk population?”

Doug Schultz on behalf of Commissioner Malcolm: “We have had deaths in people younger than 70 and certainly many cases in all age groups. It is necessary to take the community mitigation measures we have because all Minnesotans are at risk from COVID 19, as none of us has immunity. Some people, like those in long-term-care and those with underlying health conditions, are far more at risk than others. But if we didn’t reduce transmission in the community as we have with the stay at home order, we would see far more disease circulating and many times more serious cases that would quickly overwhelm our health care system. Then, even less-vulnerable people would not be able to get the care they needed, such as intensive care, ventilators, etc., so we would see far more deaths in people outside of the very frail and elderly. That is what has happened in places like Italy and New York.”

Note that I asked about deaths and Schultz responded with “cases” and “serious cases.” MDH data indicate that 122 patients are in intensive care with the virus. We have upwards of 2,000 intensive care rooms and another 1,000 that can be made available. The hospitals and health care systems throughout the state are furloughing and laying off employees.

The governor was otherwise engaged yesterday. The daily briefing was therefore conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health. It included commissioners dealing with agriculture and meat packing plants. The related food issues represent another important and worrying aspect of the epidemic. I am including the recording of the briefing for those who may be interested.

UPDATE: Kevin Roche takes Doug Schultz’s response to my question as “An Example of Government Evasiveness and Misinformation.”

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