Coronavirus in one state (32)

The government’s daily briefings have come to resemble life in lockdown. Every day is like yesterday. It’s hard to tell the days apart.

The Minnesota Department of Health ran yesterday’s briefing. Governor Walz was otherwise engaged. Commissioner Jan Malcolm ran the show and fielded questions along with Infectious Diseases Division Director Kris Ehresmann. They took several questions about nursing home fatalities. I have posted the audio recording below.

Long-term care residential deaths have been the story roughly since I commenced this series. When I tuned in, they ran at two-thirds of the total. Yesterday the authorities attributed 30 new deaths to COVID-19, bringing the total to 485. Twenty-four of the 30 new deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities. Of the 485 decedents, 391 represent residents of long-term care facilities: the share now runs at about 80 percent. The median age of all decedents remains 83.

The question also remains: why the statewide lockdown? Although Governor Walz premised the lockdown on the need to free up hospital space — “to buy time” — it is devastating medical providers and health care. In the latest chapter of this story, the Star Tribune reports “COVID-19 puts some Minnesota rural hospitals on life support.”

Why is our share of long-term care deaths so high? Among the answers offered: we focused testing on LTC deaths; we have a broad definition of residential care; we don’t think comparisons to data from other states is apples-to-apples. Governor Walz has asked them for an assessment and they are working on it now. Translation: long-term care is where the threat of fatality is. Recall: long-term care residents and citizens with significant risk factors account for 99.24 percent of all deaths attributed to the virus to date in Minnesota.

We await the state’s third iteration of a model projecting the progress of the disease in Minnesota. MDH Commissioner Malcolm was asked about that as well. It was supposed to have been rolled out by now. Where is it? It’s coming soon, she said. In the meantime, please see Kevin Roche’s “Letters to the Governor and our modelers.”

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