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What We Need to Know Now

By June 2, 2020Commentary

We are still missing important information that would help inform the public and decision-makers.  Here are items on the top of my list.

  1. Antibody testing.  Been asking for this for what feels like months.  Between them Quest and LabCorp, the two largest independent lab companies, have done around 3 million antibody tests.  What are the aggregate results?  Apparently no one knows although some one at the company said they had supplied data to the CDC and states.  Why haven’t the states been doing random antibody testing for weeks, back to the start.  They could have hired Quest and LabCorp to do this and would have given us a much better handle on the scope of the epidemic.  Inexcusable given the low-cost.
  2. Expand the antibody testing to prior coronavirus infections.  It is becoming apparent that there is some cross-reactivity in immune defenses, particularly from T-cells.  So we should have large-scale random testing of the population for T-cell and antibody responses against the current coronavirus but stemming from infections from prior strains.  This also would be invaluable as it would explain why so much of the population doesn’t get infected on exposure or has asymptomatic or mild illness.  It would quantify that for us, which would tell us where we stand in terms of barriers to transmissibility of the virus.
  3. Give us full and accurate information regarding illnesses and deaths among the elderly.  How many lived in a private residence, how many lived in nursing home, how many lived in assisted living or other congregate care settings.  Where did they die–where they lived or in a hospital or other setting?  How many had an advance directive that precluded hospitalization or intensive care?  How many were doing hospice at home or were in another end-of-life care program?  Among the non-elderly, how many were in nursing homes?  How many were in behavioral group homes, whose residents apparently also account for a significant number of serious illnesses and deaths?  Understanding the details on all these matters will help frame up the actual nature of the epidemic.  If large numbers of deaths occurred to people already on end-of-life care or with advance directives, those deaths should be put in a separate category.
  4. Where is the information on analyses, models or studies that projected the relative effects of mitigation of spread tactics?  The public is entitled to know if these analyses were even done before acting, and if so, what they showed.  In Minnesota, the Governor’s office is intentionally stalling on providing this data, despite formal requests.  I believe the reason is that none were done; no consideration was given to the effects.  I got way behind on my Wall Street Journal reading and I just found in the March 23rd paper a story headlined “up to 5 million jobs may be lost.”  Even that business-oriented paper was off by a factor of 6.
  5. What has the economic and non-economic harm from the lockdowns been?  We know over 700,000 jobs were lost.  How many businesses have closed or will close?  How many suicides, drug and alcohol overdoses, excess deaths due to foregone health care, missed vaccinations and well-child visits, divorces, and other damage has been done since this started?  The state has or can easily compile all this information and should regularly report it to Minnesotans.
  6. Give Minnesotans a full update on the performance of the model which the Governor really relied exclusively on in issuing his orders.  Everyone should see how pathetically off those projections were.

Getting all that information out to the public would be a good start.

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