10 theses on COVID-19

Kevin Roche and I contributed the 3,000-word article on the experience of COVID-19 in Minnesota to the flagship Center of the American Experiment publication Thinking Minnesota. Our article is published under the title “False Alarm” at pages 36-41 of the current (Summer) issue, posted online in PDF form here. It’s quite an issue.

I wrote a first draft of the article this past May for publication in mid-July. Borrowing from the text of our original draft, I wanted to take the liberty of highlighting the ten theses with which we begin the article. I think they hold up and may shed some light on where we are now, especially for those who get their information from the mainstream media:

• It became obvious to us early on that the epidemic presented a risk of fatality to nursing-home residents with serious medical conditions. They represent some 80 percent of all COVID-19 fatalities and have done so since very early on. Moreover, their deaths are attributed to COVID-19 without further ado if they had been diagnosed with the disease.

• Adding in others who died with serious medical conditions outside nursing homes accounts for almost all the rest of the fatalities. Those with serious underlying medical conditions — both in and out of congregate living settings — account for roughly 98 percent of all deaths attributed to the disease.

• The median age of all decedents is approximately 83. The disease presents almost no risk of death to the relatively young and the relatively healthy.

• If those with serious medical conditions were warned of the risk and ordered to act appropriately, the rest of the state could be set free to go about its business.

• This is an option that Governor Walz has rejected on the assertion that the disease places all of us at risk. This statement is false in the relevant sense.

• The serious underlying medical conditions that place older Minnesotans at elevated risk of death from COVID-19 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. By our calculation, these conditions affect approximately 15 percent of Minnesotans.

• Most Minnesotans who contract the virus are asymptomatic. Testing of the exposed population testing positive at the Worthington meatpacking plant showed that 90 percent were asymptomatic.

• Although it gets lost in the torrent of words in his public comments, Governor Walz has asserted that the measures he has taken only delay the inevitable. According to former state epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, whom Walz has advertised among his brain trust, the virus will infect some 70 percent of Minnesotans. The virus will continue to spread until a critical mass — that 70 percent — reaches immunity. [The percentage to herd immunity may be lower, but the point remains the same.]

• Governor Walz imposed his statewide shutdown on the assertion that 74,000 Minnesotans would die of COVID-19 without it. If he didn’t know any better, this was at the least an epic mistake. He owes the state an apology.

• If any of these basic points come as a surprise, we note that the failure of the Minnesota media rivals that of Governor Walz.