Well, not really the interview, but a story describing the interview (click on the related coverage item with a few actual quotes as well.) (Strib Article) Would love to see the full transcript if it ever becomes available. I pretty much vented my spleen last nite, so not much outrage left this morning. Like many people I tend to get angriest when I am disappointed. Before all this I really had no particularly negative impression of our Governor. I assumed he was competent, he certainly seemed to try to portray a pragmatic, middle of the road approach. This hasn’t been a good year for him. The epidemic response can only be described as incompetent, driven by panic and herd mentality, and is devolving into something worse. The handling of the riots in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death showed movement from Incompetent Blowhard to Ideological Incompetent Blowhard. Allowing unlimited wanton destruction to public and private property–most of the private property owned by or serving minorities, was a shocking disgrace. So, it would be fair to say I am disappointed in and have lost a lot of respect for the man, and it is unlikely he can redeem himself.
The interview was designed to be both a retrospective look at his version of one-man rule and a look forward to what might make him declare victory and give up. There isn’t actually a lot in the story. In terms of ending the dictatorship, the Governor wants community spread under 20% of cases and a test positivity rate of 4%. By community spread he is referring to unknown community transmission. So that one is totally dependent on how good or bad the state’s contact tracing efforts are. Great. The test positivity rate is an absurd measure, totally dependent on how many tests are being done and on avoiding false positives. In a low prevalence world, you could have a majority of false positives, without even considering the low “positive” issue. This is not smart testing or designing a meaningful metric for a major decision. So government as usual for him. Realistically, we will never get out of this is those are the criteria.
He did exactly what I predicted about masks. He claimed that it coincided with a “burst” of cases in our neighboring states, “being seeded back from vacations and stuff”. So the mask mandate kept us from having that burst. Neither part is true. There was no burst of cases in the Upper Midwest at the time of the mask mandate going forward, Minnesota’s case growth hasn’t been meaningful different than those states, Minnesota’s deaths are actually worse, and there is no evidence to support the notion of case growth in the Upper Midwest due to people coming back from vacations. He again claimed to follow the data, which is not true, and that the experts say it has had a profound effect. I really don’t know where he gets that BS from or what experts he is referring to, maybe the same ones who build his model. There is no effect, here or elsewhere, that has in any manner been proven to exist from masks.
The model–he tried to weasel his way around that, at one point saying he put out the death numbers because he wanted the public to be as informed as possible. That was the best laugh line of the interview. He claimed it was built on the best information available, “real world data”. Understandably he is pretty ignorant about modeling. The data used to set parameters is one thing. But this model was deeply flawed in it basic schematic, the flow, the dynamics of the epidemic as it moved through the population. And in terms of real world data, more reliable data, as from cruise ship experiences, was ignored and Chinese data was used, when everyone, and I mean everyone, knew or should have known that Chinese data was completely unreliable and untrustworthy.
He attempted to defend his one-man rule again, blaming the legislature. He defended spending almost $7 million on the warehouse for bodies, saying it was an insurance policy. Expensive insurance policy. He implied that he things we did flatten the curve and are just on a “mesa”. The true course of the epidemic in Minnesota was similar to most places–a very sharp rise in cases, most probably undetected, the most susceptible to serious illness getting infected first so we saw a simultaneous wave of hospitalizations and deaths. Clustering of serious cases occurred in LTC and among the elderly. Once the virus ran through that group, cases, in a low testing environment, hospitalizations and deaths fell. As testing ramped up, we started seeing more cases, mostly mild, but not a meaningful rise in hospitalizations or deaths. We are riding that tail, which is exactly what you would expect with a pathogen that has become endemic. We didn’t flatten the curve, we rode it.
Here is the most important question he wasn’t asked, that we can tell from the article. Explain Sweden. Explain no masks, schools open, limited gathering restrictions. No cases, no deaths now. Explain it and why that approach wasn’t better.