Coronavirus in one state (40)

At yesterday’s press briefing (audio below, at about 40:00), KSTP TV’s Tom Hauser reiterated his question regarding the share of all Minnesota deaths attributed to COVID-19 that derive from long-term care facility residents and others with significant underlying medical conditions. When first asked two weeks ago Tom’s question elicited the answer I have continued to state and emphasize in bold: 99.24 percent.

Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Diseases Director Kris Ehresmann fielded Tom’s question yesterday, as she had done before. As before, Ehresmann had the answer ready at hand: 98.8 percent. Of the 499 deaths for which the relevant information is available, 493 had significant underlying medical conditions; six did not. (The authorities await further data on 164 deaths.)

I think this is stunning information that should lead the news. Governor Walz should advertise it at every one of his numerous televised press briefings. Yet it has not even been offered by the authorities until asked.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Star Tribune health reporter Jeremy Olson was on yesterday’s press briefing call. Olson even got to ask a question. For some reason that must involve news judgment, however, the information is nowhere to be found in either of the two versions of Olson’s story on yesterday’s developments. Olson’s final, 1,200-word version of the story is posted here. Three other Star Tribune reporters are credited with contributing to Olson’s story.

What are the significant underlying medical conditions that place one at risk of death from the virus? They are set forth in paragraph 2 of Walz Executive Order 20-55: chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised systems (caused by cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, or prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications), severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher), diabetes, chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis, and liver disease.

This too is critical information. I don’t understand why Walz isn’t blaring it from the rooftops along with the 98.8 percent number and setting us free to live our lives and look out for ourselves.

Let’s not keep it a secret. Let’s get the word out.

The state authorities attributed 25 new deaths to the virus, bringing the total to 663. Twenty-one of the 25 new deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities, bringing the total of LTC deaths attributed to the virus to 537. The share of all such deaths now comes in a hair under 81 percent, by my calculation.

The age breakdown of new decedents follows the pattern we have observed to date. Of the 25 new decedents, one decedent was in his 100’s, six were in their 90’s, 7 were in their 80’s, 8 were in their 70’s, two were in their 50’s, and one was in his 30’s (“believed to have significant underlying conditions”).

I have previously reported the median age of all decedents, which has remained stuck at 83 for weeks. The Department of Health’s Situation Update now omits this information. As of Wednesday afternoon, the median age of all decedents was 83.5 (courtesy of Kevin Roche and his friendly MDH contact).

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