Coronavirus in one state (104)

The headline at the Star Tribune flags the news reflecting hostility outstate to the authoritarian regime predicated on COVID-19: “COVID-19 surveys halted in Minnesota amid racism, intimidation.” Subhead: “A door-to-door COVID-19 testing survey has been halted due to multiple incidents of residents intimidating and shouting racial and ethnic slurs at state and federal public health survey teams.”

The racial element is played up, but the facts supporting it are few and far between: “Surveyors [from the state and the CDC] had been fanning out to 180 neighborhoods this month — offering free diagnostic testing for active COVID-19 infections and blood antibody testing to identify prior infections — to understand the true prevalence of the coronavirus causing the pandemic. Insults came at doorways, from angry people approaching the surveyors or just people walking their dogs on the other sides of the streets, said Stephanie Yendell, a state senior epidemiology supervisor.”

Read the whole thing. Based on the evidence presented, I find it difficult to come to a conclusion about what has happened other than that rural Minnesotans have had it with the regime of one-man rule. Deep into the linked story Jeremy Olson reports, for example: “Incidents occurred mostly in central and southern Minnesota, rural areas where there has been pent-up resentment over the spring statewide shutdown, the indoor mask mandate and the bar and restaurant restrictions. Such measures were seen as overkill in small towns where virus transmission has been less prevalent.”

In yesterday’s MDH press briefing (audio below) Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff stated that the CDC had pulled its staff from the field study because of incidents of racism and implied threats. “The incidents could have been seen as a misunderstanding, but a pattern [involving CDC teams with minority members] has emerged.” As I say, however, little information is provided and the CDC isn’t talking.

The authorities attributed six new deaths to COVID-19 in the data reported yesterday. Three of the six deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities. Four of the decedents were in their 80’s, two in their 70’s. In the weekly report dated September 24, the Department of Health gives the median age of decedents as 83 (again).

Minnesota has been declared a land of uncontrolled spread. What’s it all about? That’s what the reporter from Minnesota Public Radio during yesterday’s briefing. According to Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann, it is attributable to the extent of “community spread.” Maybe the mask thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but Ehresmann faults “community spread” at large gatherings involving noncompliant Minnesotans. Again, details are sparse.

The department reported 1,191 new cases yesterday, but the relatively high number is based on 28,000 tested. Ehresmann offered no context or explanation in her remarks. She simply reported the numbers.

In these reports I have followed the hospitalization numbers provided by the department on its Situation Update. The department has now quit providing these numbers, changing them out for daily intensive care and hospitalization admission numbers. Yesterday, for example, the department separately reported three new cases admitted to ICU and two to the hospital. Ehresmann purported to explain the rationale for changing out the reported numbers at several points in the briefing yesterday, but I do not understand what she said. It doesn’t make sense to me.

I found yesterday’s briefing of interest in its entirety. If you have been following along with me so far, you may find it worth your time to check this one out. At about 33:00 reporter Todd McDonald of Prairie Public Broadcasting asks a question based on cross border data. Clay County (Moorhead) has reported a total of 1,371 cases; across the river, Cass County (Fargo) has reported 543 cases. Polk Country (Crookston) has reported 301 cases; across the river, Grand Forks County (Grand Forks is the county seat) has reported 250 cases. In each instance, the data favor North Dakota, although the Minnesota authorities frequently rag on our neighbors in these briefings.

McDonald hasn’t previously turned up in the briefings and makes nothing of the comparisons themselves, but they should be of interest to those of us in Minnesota. McDonald’s question heads in a different direction and Ehresmann’s response is in any event utterly unilluminating.

At about 27:00 Paul Scott of Forum News Service seeks to stir things up. He observes that the recent Trump and Pence campaign rallies held in Minnesota failed to comply with state restrictions on gatherings. Whaddaya gonna do about it, he wonders. Huff says they’re wrestling with the question and that they “have nothing further to add at this point.”

A reporter or two sought to hear more about the toll of public hostility on the ladies and gentlemen of the department. Ehresmann briefly responds and turns the floor over to Huff. Huff reminds me that we are in the land of Stuart Smalley and his daily affirmation: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

UPDATE: Please see Eitzen Mayor Jeffrey Adamson’s denial of the incident as recounted by MDH posted here.