Coronavirus in one state (156)

Although Governor Walz continues to exercise one-man rule and we continue to suffer the effects, the local news on the epidemic has reduced to vaccines and vaccinations. When will Governor Walz give it up and restore regular order? When is the public health “emergency” over? I appear to be alone among the local media in asking the question.

I submitted the three questions below on February 21. Legally obligated to answer the questions in the same fashion the department responds to other reporters, the department responded yesterday afternoon, 11 days later. It’s a good thing I wasn’t holding my breath or even expecting a forthright response. MDH reformulates my prime question and declines to articulate any public health benchmarks that would suggest the emergency is over. It’s a long time to temporary:

1. Question: In the view of MDH, please state what criteria or benchmarks would suggest that the “emergency” under which Governor Walz continues one-man rule is over?

Answer: It appears that you are asking when the governor’s peacetime emergency authority would no longer be needed: The Governor has clearly stated his intentions as to when he would consider peacetime emergency authority no longer needed in letters to the Legislature in January, both of which are attached. MDH supports the Governor’s efforts to work with the Legislature to protect the health of Minnesotans without having to rely on a peacetime emergency. We are committed to providing the Governor with the best, most complete information about the pandemic to help him continue to lead our state safely.

2. Question: On the daily MDH Situation Report under hospitalizations, it says in the note that “in most cases, the original admission was for COVID.” This indicates that you are aware of data on patients who either come to the hospital for another reason and happen to test positive for COVID or who actually get the virus in the hospital. Studies have found relatively high numbers of both these occurrences in hospitals. Please provide the Minnesota data you have on this subject.

Answer: We are aware of patients who come to the hospital for another reason and happen to test positive and that is why the statement you reference is on the website. However we have not done an analysis and do not have a public report related to our COVID-NET hospitalization data, which does include a field for “reason for admission” that splits it up into COVID-related illness and other illness options.

3. Question: A Power Line reader writes that she tried to register in the vaccine connecter website that you publicized in your February 18 press briefing. She gave up filling it out as she found “the questions therein” to be “the epitome of wokeness.” She writes: “I’m 62, retired and have significant health issues that make getting Covid a bad gamble for me. There were no questions about my health, only age. I’m retired, but I couldn’t progress in the lengthy questionnaire without stating my industry, employer and position. How is that relevant? While they’d manage to miss a significant chunk of the population with those omissions, they found time to insert all manner of options about my race, gender, sexual preference and desired pronouns. I’m unabashedly a heterosexual woman, but why are those race, gender, pronouns and sexual preference questions even germane?” Would you please respond?

Answer: The State of Minnesota is committed to the equitable distribution of safe and effective vaccines for protection against COVID-19. Questions about race, gender identity and sexual orientation will help us track and measure our goals for equity and fairness. These questions have the option to select “prefer not to answer” or “none of the above,” and selecting these answers will not prevent you from signing up for the Vaccine Connector. The information we are asking you to provide about yourself is private data under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minnesota Statutes, chapter 13. It will be used to notify you about COVID-19 vaccination updates or opportunities that are relevant to you. We do ask about your medical history. In some cases, an individual’s job or medical history may determine their eligibility status in future phases of vaccine distribution, such as is the case for some essential workers. Answers to questions about your job and medical history may be used to inform you of COVID-19 vaccination updates or opportunities that are relevant to you, and to identify when you are eligible to get your vaccine. The Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector asks users if they have medical conditions that put them in the highest-risk category if they contract COVID-19, based on current CDC research. This is to ensure we are connecting all Minnesotans to vaccine opportunities most relevant to them. The attached image [omitted] shows the page from the Connector.

The department attached Walz’s letters of January 7 (below) and 21 (more of the same) to “Legislative Leaders” along with its nonresponse to my question number 1 above. Walz’s letters require the legislature to codify elements of his executive orders before he will set his scepter aside.

The Department of Health held a press briefing on March 2 (audio below). Press inquiries focused on vaccines and vaccinations. I found nothing of general interest in it.

Responses