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Some Minnesota-specific Observations

By May 8, 2020Commentary

Our Governor did another daily briefing yesterday with the usual assortment of messaging–it’s dangerous, we are trying to balance safety, we can’t let the virus run unchecked (seriously, no one is suggesting that), we are saving lives, we are getting prepared.  The focus was on long-term care facility cases and deaths, and the Governor revealed a “battle plan” to take on the problem.  Most of the briefing was then the Commissioner of Health discussing the steps that would be taken to try to protect people in these facilities.  She said that they were “taken by surprise” at the scope of the problem.  That is just not possible to believe.  First, both the Commissioner and the Governor have repeatedly excused the deaths in the LTC facilities by saying that infectious diseases, like the flu, always hit these facilities the hardest.  Okay, then, you had every reason to anticipate that coronavirus would as well.  Second, even the early data from China showed the elderly were hit hardest.  Third, the first significant outbreak in the country took place in a Washington State nursing home, where it spread like crazy and killed a large number of residents.  So the state had every reason to know that LTC facilities harbored extremely vulnerable people and should have developed its “battle plan” weeks ago.

My other favorite BS from the briefing was their continued twisted attempts to explain why Minnesota’s percent of deaths from LTC is so high compared to other states.  This rationale has evolved over the last week, with none of the responses making any sense.  Today’s was that we just do a better job of counting all deaths from LTC and other congregate living settings for the elderly.  If that is true, and I doubt it is, it just means that across the country 80% of deaths are occurring in these settings, which would beg the question of why the whole economy has been ruined and everyone told to stay home for an issue predominantly affecting a relatively isolated and easily protectable population.

Now our state is actually a good illustration of the situation in the country as a whole.  The “two epidemics” theme continues to hold true and to be shown in even starker detail.  So let me illustrate.  There are 508 deaths in Minnesota.  407 are residents of long-term care facilities or other senior living settings. (note there may be some LTC health care workers who are not included in this total but probably should be)  The population of Minnesota is 5,600,000.  About 80,000 of those people live in these congregate settings.  So 407 divided by 80,000 is a .51% death rate.  101 divided by 5,520,000 is a .002% death rate.  That is a 255 times difference in death rates.  For the general population, it is a lower death rate than that from a ton of other causes, including flu.  So tell me again why we are locking down everyone?


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