Coronavirus in one state (129)

Governor Walz’s most recent shutdown order became effective overnight. He seized control of the public relations this week by taking over each of the press briefings usually run by the Minnesota Department of Health. He concluded with a bang yesterday, convening a briefing on mental health issues exacerbated by the shutdown and related restrictions. He also hosted several guests from mental health services along with Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Commissioner of Human Services Jody Harpstead and MDH Commissioner Malcolm.

My favorite bumper sticker is Support Mental Health or I’ll Kill You and listening to Governor Walz freewheeling at four press conferences this week has not done much for my own peace of mind. That much I can tell you. If you live in Minnesota and need help, please do check out the press briefing (audio below). Resources are available. The state has set up a text crisis line that can be reached at MN 741741.

The epidemic continues its current surge. The authorities attributed 68 new deaths to COVID-19 in the data released yesterday. Forty-four of the deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities. The fatalities skew heavily to the elderly and infirm. (The age distribution is accessible here at the MDH Situation Update. Most decedents were in their 80’s and 90’s.) Although the MDH “5-point battle plan” to combat spread of the disease in nursing homes appears to have come a cropper, this subject has gone unmentioned at the press briefings this week.

The shutdown in its various manifestation has produced devastating collateral consequences, especially for kids locked out of schools and stuck at home. In “Save the children” Kevin Roche quotes a pediatrician who wrote him on this point:

One of the few good things that the Academy of Pediatrics has done in the last few months is to to rightfully insist that children are being harmed immeasurably by lack of in-person schooling. The harm they are suffering is not being adequately reported on in any of the main stream media, and any mention of the parochial school experience in Minnesota is completely ignored by the Governor and the MDH. What better case study do the school districts need than the private schools in their own districts? I take care of kids who attend private (mostly Catholic) and public schools and the difference in the happiness level of the children and their parents is astounding, with the private school kids of course being the happy ones. The level of sadness, worry and downright despair I am seeing EVERY day in my clinic is appalling and something I have never seen before in my 30 plus years of practice.

A propos of the dog and pony shows Walz has staged this week Kevin comments:

The Governor loves to trot out CV patients to talk about the disease and health care executives and providers to talk about how hard their jobs are right now, and they are, but as the physician points out, we see nothing about the thousands, tens of thousands, of lives literally being irreparably damaged. In pursuit of every extreme action to save the lives of frail 80 and 90 year-olds, we are doing immeasurable harm to children, especially minority and low-income children. This is unconscionable and a social disgrace. When I talk about the primary thing that drives me to keep doing the blog, it is the completely unbalanced and irrational response to the epidemic, exemplified by the unilateral, and they are unilateral, actions of our Governor. Government is supposed be a vehicle by which we, the citizens, attempt to do that which creates the greatest overall benefit for our society. The epidemic response so far has been a shortsighted, monomania obsessed with preventing a few years of life lost, while ignoring what the impact is on everyone else.

Slightly off topic, Kevin also addresses the CDC report on the Sturgis rally that is in the news this week. Referring to “that naughty, naughty Sturgis motorcycle rally,” Kevin adds a little context that is otherwise missing in the news reports:

400,000 attendees, resulting among Minnesotans, although remember, this is Minnesota contact tracing we are talking about here, in 51 primary cases, only 21 secondary cases, which is a very low secondary attack rate, and 9 more potential secondary or tertiary cases, 4 hospitalizations and one unfortunate death, which we were told at the time by [MDH] was a person with serious underlying conditions. Hardly a disaster and a grand total of 3 one-hundredths of a percent of Minnesota’s total cases.

Minnesota’s hammering on South Dakota and the Sturgis rally should be a story unto itself.

Among the businesses shut down by Walz’s latest executive order are gyms. Life Time Fitness posted a press release seeking the data supporting this element of the shutdown yesterday afternoon during the press conference. Tom Hauser was the last reporter to get a question in and asked Walz about it. In his concluding remarks Walz seemed to have it in mind. “It’s not about numbers. It’s not about data. It’s about neighborliness,” he said. And here we thought it was about “the science.”

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