The briefing today was another exercise in dystopian group therapy; we are drudging up the final slope to the doom of Mordor. It was also another exercise in fact free responses, in fact remarkably so, there may have one or two statements that were completely accurate, which I assume was just an oversight. The Incompetent Blowhard opened the funereal proceedings and lived up to his name. Lots of words, little coherence, less competence. We are at a critical point, there is no end in sight, we slowed the infection rate from the spring, more testing is key, higher population states are in more danger, asymptomatic cases do most transmitting, our neighbors have the highest infection rates on the planet, we knew it would come back in the fall if we didn’t do certain things right. Whew, one long free-associating sentence.
Okay take a deep breath, I am about to shock you. The current active case burden in Minnesota is 12,598 people, according to the state’s figures. There are 5,700,000 citizens in the state. That is a current prevalence of .22%. It is exaggerated because the state assumes that every case doesn’t clear for 14 days. In fact, very few people are infectious for more than a week. Most of these cases are asymptomatic, which the research pretty clearly shows means they are less likely to be a source of transmission. I am guessing we have at most about 5000 people in the state who might be able to infect other people. (leaving aside the issue of where the state stands on the number of undetected cases, which they are being very forthcoming on these days)
As I said, the briefing was pretty fact free, so I will have to respond as best I can. The only reason the infection rate seemed so high in the spring is that we weren’t doing testing like we are now. Whenever I finally get a chance to finish my testing normalization for cases, that will be very apparent. Testing of the kind we are doing is not the key to stopping the virus. Interesting that the IB mentioned Taiwan and Korea as places that have done things right. Those countries have among the lowest testing rates in the world, next to hellholes like South Sudan. Taiwan tests at 1/100 the rate of the United States. It is because they don’t test people who don’t have symptoms or aren’t identified through contact tracing. Our testing just turns up lots of false and low positives that waste contact tracers’ time. Our contact tracing is worthless; we can’t identify source of transmission in a very large percent of our cases. High testing appears to lead to high cases as far as I can tell, not fewer.
Our neighboring states do not have the highest infection rates in the world by any means. They are well below any number of European, South American and other countries. He mentioned that Minnesota and Illinois, being higher population states, are in great danger if we become like our less-populated neighbors. We already had our turn at that in the spring, which is why we aren’t as bad in the more densely populated metro areas. It is pretty obvious to me what happened geographically, not clear why others have such difficulty grasping it. Every study points to population density being a key correlate to spread. Bigger cities get it worst at first, less populated areas get a later turn.
As mentioned above, asymptomatic cases are not the most likely source of transmission, in fact contact tracing very clearly suggests they are much less likely to infect others. And of course, we had to get the blaming Minnesotans for what is happening. “We always said it would come back in the fall if we didn’t do certain things right.” It is never the IB’s fault. Over to you, Jan and Chris.
Positivity rates are up. Well, maybe, slightly, but are they all real positives, especially with those newfangled antigen and saliva tests. I doubt it. Ever going to do a study to figure out your rate of false positives or low positives? Community transmission is up 78% since October 1 and every primary case is transmitting to three other people. Between Jan and Chris, some real waffling here on whether they actually had any data to demonstrate this. But most amazingly, they said that R is at least 3. I wonder sometimes about the understanding of basic concepts. Chris kept referring to “R naught”, which is only relevant at the very start of an epidemic. After that it is R(t), or the reproduction rate at any point in time. Beginning soon after the start of the epidemic, R(t) is a continually declining number, for obvious reasons. R(t) is also directly related to changes in prevalence. I can assure you from the prevalence trends that each case in Minnesota is not transmitting to three other people, more like 1 or 1.5. If R(t) is currently 3, in a week we will have three times as many active cases as we do now.
Concern about hospital use, but the percent of beds filled by CV-19 patients is actually low. And as I have mentioned, due to greatly increased use of remdesivir, hospitalizations are up, because that has to be administered on an inpatient basis. Concern about health care workers getting CV-19, which is surprising because if anyone knows how to use masks, they do. Concern about schools, but then why aren’t you double testing to eliminate false and low positives. It’s a stark picture, back to you, IB. Let’s open it up for questions.
First one was excellent, from the Strib’s lead reporter–in essence, given what has happened everywhere, is there really anything we can do that makes a difference. Well, said the IB, of course there is, we aren’t at our 95% mask usage goal, we are slightly less. Seriously, after the disaster of a mask mandate, you are going to bring that up. Chris chimes in that they are doing a “case control” study on masks. Should see those results right around the same time as the next version of the model is released. If I were the IB, I would never mention masks again, but he at another point said, well we need a national mask mandate. Really, go take a look at what is happening in Europe with all the countries with long-standing mask mandates. And then look at Sweden, nobody wears one. They lied about our mask wearing. He said we are below average. According to the BS Washington Post story we most certainly are not, and other surveys show the same.
Here is the essence, it is the same panicked crap as the spring. How about some honesty–try this– No one knows why or how this virus spreads so easily or what the pattern of spread is due to. We can try our best to minimize spread but we aren’t going to be very successful. We are really lucky that this isn’t that lethal a pathogen. And, as our Swedish brethren, and there are still lots of Swedish descendants in Minnesota, have taught us, controlling infection is one thing, but overall public health is more important. We have to keep kids in real school, we need to keep people getting health care, we can’t let businesses fail and jobs disappear. And most importantly, my friends, we can’t let ourselves succumb to hysteria and terror. We need to help each other as best we can, we need to be strong, we need to accept that we can’t control everything that happens in life. We will survive.
You will never hear that from the IB.