The Minnesota Department of Health has cut back its press briefings to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. Although press attendance on the conference calls appears to be much reduced, with some reporters popping up a second time for questions, the department continues to exclude me on the ground that they need to confine the briefing, so they say, to a chosen few members of large media organizations.
I have not made the cut since April 27, when the department press officers flagged my emailed questions for discussion with Governor Walz’s office. My lawsuit grounded on the MDH’s exclusion of me from the briefings is pending. They are a high-handed and not entirely straightforward or credible bunch.
Department communications director Michael Schommer has asserted under oath in my lawsuit that his exclusion of me following his flagging of my questions for the governor’s office on April 27 was merely coincidental. The department has yet to produce a written policy or list of approved members of large media organizations who made the cut after April 27. They have effectively cut it down to what I call the circle of love.
The number of new deaths attributed to the epidemic has fallen substantially over the past few weeks. On July 7 the department reported three new deaths; yesterday the department reported 8 new deaths. Of the 1,485 total deaths now attributed to the epidemic, 1,161 have occurred among residents of long-term care facilities (78 percent) and the median age of decedents continues to hover around 83.
Governor Walz will soon summon the legislature to a special session so that he can extend his emergency powers another month. To use his preferred metaphor, Walz loves controlling the “dials” of our lives and he’s not giving up control any time soon.
I have embedded the audio of yesterday’s press briefing below. The epidemic may be on a course of decline in Minnesota, but the the pitiful performance of the press shows no signs of peaking.