Coronavirus in one state (33)

When I first tuned in to the data emerging from the progress of the COVID19 epidemic in Minnesota, it quickly became clear that we had a misrepresented nursing home crisis that had been invoked to justify a devastating statewide lockdown. Katherine Kersten expands on this point to great effect in the Star Tribune column “Minnesota must recover from its pandemic of fear.” The share of total COVID19 death to all such deaths has risen from two-thirds to 80 percent. Adding decedents with significant underlying conditions, as Kathy reminds us, brings us to 99.24 percent of all deaths. Why the statewide lockdown?

Governor Walz must be feeling the heat. In his daily briefing yesterday he turned to the nursing home crisis. Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm has prepared a five-point “battle plan.” She presented it following Walz’s opening remarks. She illustrated her plan with accompanying Power Point slides that summarize her presentation.

The presentation tacitly acknowledges a massive failure. You may wonder how it took so long to come to this. I certainly do. The circle of love surrounding the governor must have something to do with it. We would all have been better served by a critical press fulfilling its purpose.

Since I started following the daily briefings, only KSTP-TV’s Tom Hauser has really distinguished himself with a few pointed questions. It was Tom who extracted the 99.24 percent number from Infectious Diseases Division Director Kris Ehresmann. His Twitter feed is here.

In the latest data, 23 new deaths were attributed to the virus. Seventeen of the 23 deaths yesterday occurred among residents of long-term care facilities. This brings the total of all COVID-19 deaths to 508. By my calculation, long-term care residents now account for an astounding 82 percent of deaths attributed to the virus. Seven of the new decedents were in their 90’s, four in their 80’s, six in their 70’s, two in their 60’s, three in their 50’s, and one in his 40’s (no details available). The median age of all decedents remains 83.

The video of yesterday’s briefing is below. Like the guitarist Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap, Walz talks about turning the dial. Nigel famously turned the dial on his amplifier up to 11 because it was louder than 10. Walz is turning the dial too. In this case, he is incrementally relieving us of the strictures of his statewide lockdown order by slowly turning the dial up. Walz wants to turn the dial up “in a smart way.” Slow is smart. At this rate Walz may twist the dial to 4 some time in June.

Walz is mulling over what kind of graduation parties he sees fit for Minnesotans to hold. “A graduation and a graduation party is one of the markings of adulthood and that you have now entered another level,” he observed. Is he up to the task? He’s uncertain: “We’re working hard on this one. I’m trying to turn over every stone that we can do, and we know that that guidance needs to get out there quickly.”

Walz added: “Small family gatherings or something, I can imagine families having two sets of cousins and wanting to do something in their backyard and do it socially-distanced. We gotta figure out how to do that.”

That’s a tough one. You can see why they only recently tumbled to the nursing home crisis.

Nigel Tufnel, call your office! Someone needs to tell Walz it’s time to turn his own dial down. In Walz’s honor I am adopting the thumbnail photo of the governor with his #StayHomeMN banner to represent this series.