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A Few More Observations From Yesterday’s Coronavirus Briefing

By May 9, 2020Commentary

These briefings have become tiresome in their repetition of that same old messages.  I am going to do a video and a podcast soon that helps people understand the typical tricks that politicians use to mislead the public, and our Governor is increasingly utilizing the complete bag of those tricks.

So here they are.  Always make the problem seem worse than it is.  Tell people there is enormous danger and everyone is going to die (or at least 74,000 or 50,000, or 22,000 or whatever) if we don’t follow the Governor’s orders.  Then if it turns out better, it was due to his actions.  If it turns out the same, well he warned us.

Always have experts to blame things on.  The Governor constantly hides behind the “health experts”.  And if the epidemic isn’t as bad as he told people, well, blame the experts for that too.

Always say you are being balanced and considering all perspectives, but only listen to a few people and stick to what you are doing no matter how much the facts and situation change.

Always make it seem like the choice is between your actions or some really terrible scenario, like, we can’t just let everything go back to normal with no precautions.  No one is seriously suggesting that.

Always claim you are data driven and following the science, but be sure you don’t read or pay any attention to data or science that isn’t consistent with your actions.

Use really dumb analogies that might fool some people.  Yesterday it was, well if you don’t wear masks and stay-at-home you are being like someone in Britain during the German bombing who turned on their lights.  A far more apt analogy is that the Governor is telling everyone to turn out their lights because there is model plane being flown around by a child.

He has brought up several times and did it again yesterday that we can’t rush to open businesses because people won’t go anyway, as they are afraid.  They are afraid because he is peddling fear where none should exist.  I have repeatedly shown the true risk.  The Governor persists in leading everyone to believe they are, wait for it, one of his favorite words, in danger.  He has become the fear-monger in chief.  I have noted before; Roosevelt said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”;  the British during the second World War said “keep calm and carry on”; the Governor says “be afraid, be very afraid and hide in your houses til I tell you it’s safe.”

The Governor also isn’t nearly as smart or in command of the basics of an epidemic as he would like the public to believe.  Although at times warning that we will see more cases as we test more, he also talks about how more cases mean we are moving up the epidemic curve.  This is just false.  Unless we were testing everyone every day, we have no idea how many cases there are, much less how many new ones per day or what the trend is.  Minnesota has had no consistent policy or regimen, so our testing is completely uninformative about the epidemic trend.  Lately we have had more tests so we are seeing more positive results and it looks like we have more cases.  But that is completely misleading.

Assume this scenario.  Monday, there actually are 500 new cases, Tuesday there are 600, Wednesday there are 600, Thursday there are 700, Friday there are 600, Saturday there are 500, Sunday there are 400.  But you aren’t testing everyone.  I will use the same ratio of positive test results every day to show you how screwed up this is.  Let us assume the positive tests are 20%.  I only do 500 tests on Monday, so I think there are 100 new cases.  I ramp up my testing on Tuesday.  I do 1000 tests so I think there are 200 cases.  On Wednesday I do 1500 tests, so I think there are 300 cases.  By Thursday I am up to 2000 tests, and I think there are 400 cases.  This is my maximum test capacity, so on Friday I think there are 400 cases and on Saturday and Sunday.  You can see that the number of positive results bears no real relationship to the number of cases.  And unless you were consistently testing everyone or doing a random sample of the population in testing, you don’t know the number of cases.  And the way this epidemic is working, the random sample is going to be wrong too, because the virus isn’t infecting the population at equal rates; it is infecting the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions above their proportion of the population.

So the Governor can say we are doing more testing; he can say we are finding more cases; but he can’t tell us anything about the trend of the cases.  But he used this idea that we are moving up the epidemic curve, instead of up the testing curve, as a justification for keeping the lockdown in place.

Now I will point out a couple of more pieces of “data” since we are being data driven, that the Governor won’t tell you.  Our rate of deaths outside of long-term care residents has basically had no trend for weeks.  And even with LTC residents considered, there is no significant uptick in the last two weeks, in fact the trend is basically flat.  And hospitalizations and ICU use as a percent of cases is beginning to trend down, which is expected because as you do more testing you are picking up more mild and asymptomatic cases.

Also note that we aren’t getting information in these briefings any more about unemployment claims.  Over the last two weeks the Governor has claimed that over 130,000 Minnesotans could go back to work, but that isn’t happening.  Instead, the level of job loss has steadily risen, to now over 615,000 Minnesotans.

The Governor has dug his heels in and seems determined not to budge on his approach notwithstanding the fact that the epidemic poses no risk to most Minnesotans, but joblessness and other damage is rising rapidly.

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