Coronavirus in one state (116)

The headline in Minnesota’s COVID-19 news is the 35 new deaths authorities attributed to the disease yesterday. The number ties a record that goes back to May. However, it follows daily reports of five new deaths (10/17), 17 new deaths (10/18), five new deaths (10/19), and 7 new deaths (10/20). Does the number 35 reflect a backlog of earlier deaths dumped into yesterday’s data? Tom Hauser asked the question at the end of yesterday’s press briefing (audio below). Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Division Disease Director Kris Ehresmann denied that it was. The state does not give us the actual date of death on its public sites.

In a reprise of an old story, 26 of the 35 new deaths occurred among residents of long-term care (25) or other group home setting (one). The age range of the 35 decedents extended from those in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and one at age 100+ (as it is given in the daily chart of deaths). Over the past three days, some 80 percent of deaths have occurred among LTC residents. Does the MDH “battle plan” for LTC facilities need to be retuned? It fell to Tom Hauser to ask this question as well at the end of yesterday’s briefing. Answer: They’re thinking about it.

The tone of the briefing was minatory and condescending. Commissioner Malcolm addressed the assembled multitude in the scolding tone of a grade school teacher. And yet she is parsimonious with supporting facts. A highly infectious respiratory disease is spreading. She wants us to know it is our fault.

Following the briefing, the department sent out a message by email. Consistent with the tone of Commissioner Malcolm’s prepared remarks, this is the heart of the MDH message:

All Minnesotans need to understand the meaning behind these numbers. If this current trajectory continues, it will have major impacts on our elderly and high-risk populations, health care systems, schools, workforce and businesses, and communities.

COVID-19 doesn’t just happen to the person that gets infected. Even if you don’t get seriously ill, you are likely passing it on to others in your household and community. A decision to stay home when you are sick, to get tested, to wear a mask, or to skip a gathering is something you’re doing not just for your own good but for that of your community, your main street businesses, and your state.

Director Ehresmann to the contrary notwithstanding, Kevin Roche comments:

The coronavirus briefing was another somber affair, with 35 new deaths reported today. Just like the 2300 case day, those deaths did not occur yesterday; in fact you can be certain that a bunch of them occurred weeks ago. Just another example of the misleading data put out by the state. They know the actual date of death, they give it to the CDC, who does report it. I did the updated comparison just a week ago or so and you see that deaths per week have actually plateaued and stayed plateaued. It is part of the whipping up fear tactics of the state to intentionally not clarify this. Based on their reporting method, we won’t know how many deaths actually occurred this week for months.

[Tom Hauser] did ask about dates of death, finally, and here [Kris Ehresmann] just lied[. R]eally, I don’t know how she could give the answer she did. Since a couple of months after the epidemic began here, the state has been reporting deaths on a daily basis that actually occurred weeks and months ago. They continue to do that, as I stated above. [Ehresmann] has the dates of death. States like Oregon and Florida give the actual date of death. She said the deaths were all recent[. T]hat is definitely not true. I am going to start pulling the CDC data every week and show what a lie that is. I would be very surprised if at least some of the deaths reported today were not from long ago, because that shows up every week in the CDC reporting….

I will say again, what the case rise actually shows is the futility of most measures to slow transmission, short of locking people in their houses, which is what China did, and welded the doors shut. Out of the deaths today, the vast majority were in LTC again. [Hauser] pointed this out and asked if the battle plan was actually working. The battle plan is worthless, the mask mandate is worthless, the state’s excessive testing and contact tracing effort [are] worthless.

…if you believe people are bringing the virus into LTC, show us the data that proves that, with your supposed so-great contact tracing efforts. And the explanation they give for seeing cases in staff now instead of residents, is totally bogus. They weren’t testing staff in the spring, so they can’t say that there weren’t cases among staff at that point. Somehow it spontaneously arose in the LTC facilities in the spring but now staff is bringing it in?

Hauser also asked Ehresmann for an update on the current percentage of all deaths attributed to COVID-19 included decedents with significant underlying conditions. The last time Hauser got asked the question — months ago — the answer was approximately 98 percent. Ehresmann said that she would get back to him with the current data, but that the percentage was now less than 50. His Twitter feed does not reflect any update from Ehresmann.

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