Coronavirus in one state (75)

When I first tuned in to the data emerging from the progress of the COVID-19 epidemic in Minnesota, it quickly became clear that we had a nursing home crisis that had been invoked to justify a devastating statewide lockdown. Katherine Kersten expanded on this point in the Star Tribune column “Minnesota must recover from its pandemic of fear.”

The share of total COVID-19 deaths attributed to deaths in long-term care facilities had risen from two-thirds to 80 percent. Adding decedents with significant underlying conditions brought us to 99 percent of all deaths. At last word, that number was roughly 98 percent. Whatever it is, it still accounts for nearly all deaths attributed to the epidemic and the median age of all decedents has risen to 83.5.

On April 27 I was expelled from the daily Department of Health press briefings for asking questions about the nursing home crisis. MDH denies that. They say my expulsion on that date was simply coincidental with my emailed questions that they flagged for further discussion with Governor Walz’s staff.

In his daily briefing on May 7 Walz finally turned to the nursing home crisis. Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm had prepared a “five-point battle plan.” Malcolm presented it following Walz’s opening remarks. She illustrated her plan with accompanying Power Point slides that summarized her presentation.

I thought the presentation tacitly acknowledged the validity of the obvious point I had been trying to make and represented a massive failure on the part of state authorities. I wondered how it had taken them so long to tumble to it. The circle of media love surrounding the governor may have played a role. I thought we would all have been better served by a critical press fulfilling its true purpose.

Yesterday Governor Walz and his supporting cast called a press conference to report on the progress made in controlling the epidemic in long-term care facilities. I have embedded video of the press conference below.

The Star Tribune’s Jeremy Olson and Chris Serres report on the press conference in a manner that must please Governor Walz in “Deaths in Minnesota long-term care drop tenfold.” Subhead: “Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm also cautioned that the virus still presents challenges.”

Olson’s May 8 story on the “battle plan” and Serres’s May 20 story on nursing homes provide further context. Olson and Serres don’t provide much context in their current story.

Key moments at the press conference occur at 30:00-42:00 as Walz responds to questions. Should he have addressed this issue earlier? Couldn’t they have gotten a clue from the experience of Washington state? Walz’s position is that any errors are attributable to their reliance on the federal government for personal protective equipment. He’s a little touchy on this point: it’s not his fault.

Yesterday we had only three new deaths attributed to the virus in Minnesota. One such death involved a long-term care resident.

More Walz to come. He will announce a statewide face mask mandate at 2:00 p.m. today. Oh, goody. Or, as Kevin Roche puts it, “More gibberish from state officials.”

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