The Minnesota Department of Health held its first and only press briefing of the week yesterday morning. It was also the last briefing of 2020. It is difficult to overstate the servility and compliance of the press in toeing the lines peddled by MDH throughout the epidemic. Yesterday’s briefing serves as a good example.
One would have to be a fool to miss the obvious fact that the virus has waxed and waned on its own rhythm regardless of the various approaches imposed (or not) by the authorities. Governor Walz imposed the current lockdown regime as we reached the other side of the current wave. Kevin Roche made the case in his December 1 Star Tribune column when the issue was in doubt, but he knew what he was talking about.
Kevin’s hypothesis is now confirmed by all the relevant data. Minnesota Public Radio includes several graphs depicting the recession of the Minnesota wave in its current update. The same pattern obtains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. One has to adopt a willfully obtuse attitude to resist the conclusion that stares us in the face.
At about 34:00 of the briefing CBS Minnesota’s Marielle Mohs asked whether the authorities might not be able to reduce the “current restrictions” in light of the data. According to Commissioner Malcolm, the answer is no, although her answer was neither that direct nor that brief. That was the only question on the topic. Neither Mohs nor any other reporter followed up.
At about 38:45 Star Tribune editorial writer Jill Burcum posed a question in a vehement tone. She asked about the analysis of death data compiled by state Rep. Mary Franson that I wrote about in part 145. Rep. Franson has appeared on FOX News with state Senator Scott Jensen to discuss the analysis suggesting some deaths are misattributed to the disease. Without naming Franson or Jensen, Burcum sounds angry about their cable appearances this week. They seem to have committed an offense against majesty. Malcolm, Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann, and state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield all respond that they are following CDC guidance in classifying deaths.
In my own exchange with her on Sunday morning Rep. Franson commented to me: “What I find very interesting — not one [member of the] MN mainstream media has reached out to me. Not. One.” I have texted Rep. Franson to confirm that this observation applies to Burcum. I have emailed Burcum to ask as well. I will update this post with their responses when received.
UPDATE: I spoke with Rep. Franson this morning. She is not difficult to reach. Her contact information is posted on her state legislative page. That is how I was able to contact her this past Sunday. I understand from Rep. Franson that additional information was sought from her via a Twitter thread including Burcum following the briefing. As of mid-morning Burcum herself has not responded to my email inquiry.
UPDATE (January 2): Jill Burcum has responded to my inquiry: “My apologies for the delayed response. No, [my] inquiry [was] not limited to the Minnesota Department of Health. For example, on Wednesday I asked Rep. Franson for additional information [via Twitter]. I have yet to hear back from her.”
NOTE for Minnesota readers: Much of the briefing was devoted to the rollout of the vaccine in Minnesota. Following the briefing MDH posted a vaccine update with related guidance/resources summarizing the information here.