Today comes word that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is set to adjust the terms of the shutdown order he issued on March 25, effective March 27. So the Star Tribune’s Jeremy Olson reports in “Walz to tweak stay-at-home restrictions as Minnesota battles COVID-19.” Subhead: “Minnesota cases still rising, but governor could let some resume working.” Olson vaguely focuses on the positive departure of reality from the model on which Walz relied:
Walz issued the stay-at-home order, which ends Friday, based on modeling by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health that was pessimistic in certain assumptions. The governor praised that modeling for predicting that the current social distancing would make a difference, but the reality of the outbreak has played out differently in Minnesota in some key ways.
The modeling assumed an average length of stay of 23 days in intensive care for patients with severe COVID-19 illnesses. The governor said the actual length of stay has been shorter and the death rate has been lower.
Olson somehow omits, as he is wont to do, that Walz’s March 25 order was premised on the assertion that up to 74,000 Minnesotans would be mowed down by the Wuhan virus (see video below). As of the moment I am writing, however, the Minnesota Department of Health attributes 34 deaths to the virus (with a median age of 86).
Watching the video below a few more times yesterday, I was struck by how unforthcoming Walz was with the projections on which his order was premised. He left the viewer to draw inferences from the outline of the charts accompanying his remarks. Walz has projected a wildly unrealistic number of lives saved — 24,000 — by his current order. Olson’s verbose reportage over the past ten days has supplied one relevant detail — the number of lives projected to be saved under the order. He concludes today:
The governor is hopeful that the next phase won’t be as harmful to the economy — more than 350,000 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment benefits since March 15 — but cautioned that people will still need to be disciplined to prevent the spread of infection.
“This is working,” he said, “because people are basically complying and doing the things they need to. None of that would change.”
Yesterday we filed a Minnesota data practices act request for documents on the modeling referred to by Walz in the video below. Under that modeling, Minnesota stands to sustain another 49,966 deaths attributable to the virus under the governor’s best-case scenario (see here, for example). We’d like to take a look at the documents.
The refusal to measure reality against Walz’s model in any significant detail complicates an assessment of the devastation wrought by the governor’s current order. For whatever reason, the Star Tribune seems to be protective of the governor. The observation of former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson certainly applies to the Minnesota data.
2/ I would make a couple of points – it glides over just how concentrated the excess mortality risk appears to be in the very old and sick.Why isn’t our focus on protecting THOSE folks rather than going immediately to lockdowns – which are hugely destructive by any measure?
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) April 8, 2020
The video below gives Governor Walz’s March 25 remarks supporting the shutdown order he issued on that day. See the remarks at about 5:00-10:00 and the accompanying charts. Despite what I say about the 24,000 lives Walz projected to be saved under his current order, the charts deployed in the video seem to reflect almost no difference between “doing nothing” and “smart mitigation” (i.e., the terms of the governor’s order).
UPDATE: Kevin Roche comments in his post “The backtracking on shutdowns begins.”