Coronavirus in one state (111)

In yesterday’s data, the authorities attributed 14 deaths to COVID-19. Thirteen of the 14 new deaths occurred among residents of long-term or congregate care facilities. This seems accurately to represent the current state of the epidemic in Minnesota. On days when the number of new deaths jumps, congregate care settings predominate. Over the the three preceding days, the authorities reported four new deaths (10/6, one LTC), 14 new deaths (10/7, 9 LTC), and 8 new deaths (10/8, six LTC) to the epidemic.

Although the long-term care facilities are under the thumb of the authorities, they attribute the fatalities among LTC residents to staff bringing it in from outside. It’s not their fault. It’s our fault. I guess that’s why we’re all under the thumb of the authorities.

The authorities continue to instill fear by highlighting case numbers. In yesterday’s press briefing (audio below), Health Commissioner Malcolm emphasized that the median age of new cases has risen from 35 to 36. Malcolm did not mention that the median age of COVID-19 decedents remains 83 or that the median age of decedents from all causes is about 79.

When Governor Walz declared a statewide emergency and issued his sweeping lockdown order on March 25, hospital capacity was the stated rationale. He anticipated 74,000 deaths without his strictures and 50,000 with them. Hospitals would be overwhelmed absent the lockdown, he said. Victims of the disease would be dying in the streets. He wasn’t going to let that happen.

Tracking the daily hospitalization data until the Department of Health killed it, I found the impact of the disease on the capacity of the health system to be relatively low, especially over the past four or five months. By contrast, Walz’s restrictions wrought enormous damage on the health system itself. They have resulted in the closure of facilities and the removal of beds. It’s one of those secondary impacts that is concealed or minimized in the daily panic.

As of Thursday, MDH has replaced the daily hospitalization/ICU numbers with the capacity data below, running back to the first week of August. The more darkly shaded area of each of the two charts reflects numbers attributed to the epidemic. The charts are posted at Minnesota’s COVID-19 Response Capacity and updated daily.

Given the small share of hospitalizations attributable to COVID-19 and visible in the charts, by the way, the authorities now downplay its significance and stress the overall context. They stress that operating near capacity is situation normal. This is a perspective that was almost entirely lacking in every press briefing until yesterday.

Commissioner Malcolm’s remarks and the related questions raised by reporters focus on new cases and test positivity rates. New cases have increased at a lower percentage than the increase in tests administered. Isn’t that good? I must be missing something.

Yesterday’s data included 1,401 new cases — a high number, but one based on 31,857 lab test results and a positivity rate of 4.4 percent (under the five percent level MDH posits as a threshold of concern). Isn’t that good? Again, I must be missing something, assuming these numbers are meaningful.