Coronavirus in one state (39)

Yesterday was a big day in Minnesota’s continuing ordeal of the epidemic. Before turning to the developments that made the day big, I want to update the data I have been following in this series.

The state authorities reported 24 new deaths attributed to the virus, bringing the total to 638. Seventeen of the 24 new deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities, bringing the total of LTC deaths attributed to the virus to 517 and raising the share of all such deaths to 81 percent, by my calculation.

The age breakdown of the new decedents follows the pattern we have observed to date. Of the 24 new decedents, one decedent was in his 100’s, three were in their 90’s, 10 were in their 80’s, five were in their 70’s, three were in their 60’s, one was in his 30’s, and one is listed as unknown.

I have previously reported the median age of all decedents, which has remained stuck at 83 for weeks. I can’t find the median age number on the revised version of the Department of Health’s Situation Update. If you can find the median age of all decedents in the state data, please write me at [email protected]

In the place where I have previously found the median age of all decedents is this chart. The risk of fatality is geared heavily to LTC residents and others with significant underlying conditions. They account for some 99.24 percent of all deaths attributed to the virus. For some reason the authorities have no interest in publicizing this number and drawing the related inferences.

Here I want to add a personal note. State district court Judge Steven Anderson was my classmate at the University of Minnesota Law School. I didn’t know Judge Anderson, but Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Barry Anderson, also my classmate, recalls Judge Anderson in Kirsti Marohn’s moving MPR obituary “‘We can’t even say goodbye’: Judge lost to COVID-19 remembered for wit, compassion.” As I read Marohn’s account, Judge Anderson contracted the virus on a trip out west with his wife in search of a retirement home. He died on April 17 after a brief struggle with the virus. The Star Tribune obituary is here. Please extend your thoughts and prayers to his family.

Yesterday morning the authorities rolled out Minnesota Model 3.0 in an eagerly anticipated press briefing (video below). The Power Point slides used in the briefing are posted here. The Minnesota Department of Health’s collection of materials on COVID-19 modeling is posted online here.

The state appears to have devoted substantial resources to modeling, but I find it a source more of entertainment than illumination. Yesterday wasn’t any different. This model can’t even “predict” the past or the present (i.e., the projection of 1,700 total deaths through the end of this month per Slide 12, which would require something an average of 60 deaths a day for the rest of the month).

Governor Walz omitted any mention of Model 3.0 during his 6:00 p.m. speech announcing his new executive order loosening the current restrictions of his statewide lockdown. The text of Governor Walz’s remarks as prepared is posted here. The Star Tribune has a long story on the speech here. MinnPost has a good account here.

Governor Walz is extending his emergency powers another 30 days but allowing his current stay-home order to expire next Monday. He is replacing the stay-home order with a stay-safe order, allowing small group gatherings of up to 10 people and certain business openings at 50 percent of capacity with safety measures.

Thank you, kind sir. Your subjects are somewhat grateful.

Walz has further decreed, however, that businesses involving moderate to large gatherings or close contact such as restaurants, bars, and salons, will have to wait until June 1 to open. We will not be permitted to look out for ourselves for some time.

Walz’s speech ran only 15 minutes, but he unleashed the usual blizzard of verbiage and buzzwords. He turned dials and adjusted knobs. He threatened to turn them back if necessary.

Buried in the middle of the blizzard was Walz’s warning to those with significant underlying conditions to protect themselves and stay home. Walz failed even to identify the significant underlying conditions that are the object of his warning. This is what he said:

We must do everything in our power to protect our older Minnesotans. Last week, we announced a Five Point Battle Plan to protect our senior Minnesotans and keep this virus at bay in thousands of our long-term care facilities.

And now we are asking people who have underlying conditions and who are over 65 years old to take extra precautions. We are not requiring it, but it is strongly encouraged that if you are able to stay home – continue to stay home.

The first quoted paragraph should be aimed at himself. He wants to bring us all into his own failure. He’s not using the royal “we,” but it applies to the continuing LTC deaths. They are on him, not on us. What you mean “we,” kemosabe?

And the second point is the one that applies to the rest of us who are at large as much as allows us to be at large. If only Walz were interested in making this key point understood Walz would identify and emphasize the significant underlying conditions at every briefing and let us look out for ourselves.

UPDATE: The Minnesota Department of Health has not responded to my inquiry, but it has responded to Kevin Roche’s. The department advises that as of yesterday afternoon the median age of death of all decedents is 83.5.

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