Coronavirus in one state (132)

Governor Walz took over Monday’s regularly scheduled Department of Health press briefing yesterday. He advertised it as a “deep dive” on the data that is now to become a feature of Monday briefings with Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who performed the “deep dive” with slides that mostly do not appear in the video I have embedded below. (The cited data are accessible at the MDH Situation Update, the MDH Weekly Report, and the state’s COVID-19 Response dashboard.)

Briefings convened by Walz are run by his staff and limited almost entirely to Capitol press corps. It is a cozy group, not unlike those admitted to the circle of love at MDH briefings, but even more tightly controlled. I take it that the subtext of this briefing is the perceived need for Walz to reiterate the rationale supporting the incredibly destructive shutdown regime he has imposed. Rest assured, it is for our own good.

Walz commenced the briefing with the usual torrent of verbiage. He paid tribute to the importance of data. He referred to the record number of 101 deaths reported on November 27. For some reason he failed to mention that 65 of these deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities (64) or other congregate care setting (one).

Malcolm then took the lectern to review the data. Referring to the day that 101 deaths were reported, she recited the tired trope to the effect that “we are asking so much of our fellow Minnesotans.” The word “asking” is of course a euphemism in this context.

Among the questions was one directed to Walz about the misinformation disseminated, I think, on Twitter, that he has a net worth of $400 million. If only (my comment, not his). He asserted that he has been compensated “fairly” for his service in the public sector. You got a problem with that?

Walz responded (at about 48:00) that he is concerned about this misinformation only to the extent that it undermines faith in institutions. If you believe that misinformation, he worried that you probably won’t follow his public health “advice” (there’s that conceit of voluntariness again).

On this point I think back to Walz announcing his big shutdown order of March 25 — the one he was advised privately, but accurately, would cost 800,000 jobs. “To battle COVID,” he vowed, “we’re going to make sure that we reduce the impact, especially deaths of our neighbors.” Walz touted his reliance on “the best data possible” as projected by a tailor-made model produced by experts at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health. “We’re using the best scientific data,” Walz assured Minnesotans, and then issued a warning based on the model. “If we just let this thing run its course and did nothing,” Walz asserted, “upwards of 74,000 Minnesotans could be killed by this.”

The number of fatalities as of this morning stands at 3,593 (including 2,413 in long-term care facilities). Walz’s projection was insanely false and stupid at the moment he gave it. With mitigation, Walz chose to omit, his super-duper model projected that 50,000 Minnesotans would die. And he paid millions of taxpayer dollars for that super-duper model which was in fact a glorified joke.

Walz himself has done more to undermine “faith in institutions” than anyone talking about him on Twitter, but he isn’t looking back. By the way, we’re also not too crazy about his acquisition of a refrigerated storage facility for use as an overflow morgue.

In response to a question posed at the end of the briefing Walz reluctantly previewed his likely “recommendation” that Minnesotans clamp down on Christmas gatherings. Oh, goody.

You wouldn’t know it from the Minnesota data presented at this excruciating briefing, but critical aspects of the epidemic remain the same. The median age of death is 83. Ninety-four percent of decedents have one or more of seven significant underlying conditions; only two percent do not. These briefings should take the opportunity on every occasion to warn those at greatest risk, yet they never do.

Among the comments on the briefing posted on the MPR News Facebook page from which I lifted the video is this disaffected take: “Blah, blah, blah. He has no idea what to do. Nor does anyone else to be fair. No matter how deep he dives!”

One uncharacteristically perceptive comment left by a listener at the MPR News Facebook page was triggered by Walz’s discussion of the coming vaccines (“the light at the end of the tunnel”): “Thank God that President Trump pushed the vaccines through so quickly!”