A Couple of Minnesota Observations

By May 4, 2020 Commentary

The most interesting thing that came out of the daily coronavirus briefing in Minnesota last Friday was that a number of the elderly dying of coronavirus had advance directives which barred intensive treatment.  That is not surprising, given the push to have people adopt advance directives, especially for end-of-life care, in the last decade.  In addition, the Commissioner of Health indicated that many of those who have died were already dying of other causes and just happened to also contract coronavirus.  I suspect these are widespread issues across the country, and the deaths should be broken out.  We should see an identification of those people who died with advance directives, which preclude potentially life-extending care, and we should see a breakdown of those who were receiving palliative, end-of-life care.

Next, a reader has very kindly shared with me his analysis of some case and death trends from around Minnesota.  We have an extensive agriculture subsegment to the economy here and a number of food-processing plants, including meatpacking ones.  In the southwestern corner of the state we have a large meatpacking plant that, like others around the country, has had a large number of infections.  Our governor has used that as an example to strike fear into people about what would happen if we open up the economy more.  But the reality is that while there have been 940 cases in the county, there has been one death, not to an employee at the plant.  No one wants to get stick, but we need to stop scaring people about a risk that is less than they face from many other causes.  This example is completely typical, when there is extensive testing, you find lots of infections, and almost everyone is asymptomatic or mild.

Lastly, I am astounded at how frightened some people are, especially younger people, when the reality of their risk is low, and the risk that they may infect someone else with a serious illness is low.  We all have access to all kinds of data on the epidemic and anyone who looks at the CDC data and at the reporting on the percent of deaths from nursing home residents can see how unlikely it is that the average person in the working age population has any risk at all.  On the other hand, we are all subjected to this constant panicked terrorism of the media, and some politicians, about how “dangerous” it is.    It isn’t.  During the Depression in the 1930s, President Roosevelt famously said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.  Our Governor’s, and other politicians’, equivalent during the epidemic is “Be afraid, be very afraid, go hide inside.”  The British motto during the early stages of the second World War, when the country was being devastated by constant bombing, was “keep calm and carry on”.  Our politicians encourage us to panic and stop living.  Great leadership.

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