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The State of Minnesota Is Incapable of Adapting and Using a Different Playboodk

By October 26, 2020Commentary

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.

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Rob says:

    The Gell-Mann effect applies to government as well as news organizations. An entity that can’t be trusted to handle the relatively simple mathematics of balancing a budget can’t be trusted to handle the more difficult mathematics involved in calculating the spread of a virus.

  • Chet says:

    That “Here’s the essence…” paragraph at the end is an excellent elevator speech on the whole topic. Thanks, Kevin!

  • Michael Timmer says:

    Kevin, Can you comment on the effectiveness of remdesivir? I had read that the drug was not appreciatively better than nothing, but I can stand to be corrected.

  • Chuck says:

    Great article Kevin! Thank you!

  • Matt says:

    Anybody else get the feeling that a post election lockdown is coming? The continued harping on us not doing our part and the increasing case loads are getting me worried the IB might go down the path again. I don’ t think he has the guts to do it before Tuesday. Depending on your political persuasion it is either for our own good or for punishment. Maybe I am just paranoid.

  • researching says:

    I keep wanting to believe these people have no political angle when they make their pronouncements. But I think the joke is on me and my extreme gullibility.

    From People’s Pundit Daily show yesterday, “Barnes and Baris on the Home Stretch: What Are the Odds?”, starting around 2:01:20 mark.

    [Baris]: …Can I just say something here? They had to scare the ***t out of people to win this election. …They had to scare people…with coronavirus…they had no prayer to win this election without it. …If this was just a referendum on Donald Trump’s tenure as president with the economy and foreign policy, things…presidents are normally judged on…because…where Joe Biden’s getting polling strength is from this group that they terrified with the coronavirus, and that is it. It’s not, it’s… There’s a chunk, every state we poll, they scared the hell out of ‘em with the coronavirus…they scared the hell out of ‘em.

    [Barnes]: The problem with putting all their eggs into that basket was it was never gonna hold up [as a top issue]….What I told people back in June was that in order for Democrats to win, in my view, coronavirus needed to be the number one issue by a decent margin, particularly amongst independents. …I can get Democrats staying locked into it as an issue because it’s a proxy for their hatred of Trump, but they need to be 30+ percent need to say covid is the number one issue – independents – in the Midwest, or they’re not going to win, and the problem is that number’s been in the teens. …it goes to…what he said in the first debate…they decided to forfeit organizing efforts. They decided to forfeit meaningful rallies. They decided to forfeit a real convention. All in the name of pushing pandemic, panic, pandemic, panic, pandemic, panic. That’s why when he did the first debate he was like, “Look around your kitchen table this coming Thanksgiving and think about who is not at that table because of covid”. The problem is over 90 percent of Americans don’t have anybody missing from that kitchen table, so that’s the problem, and of the few that do, most of them don’t attribute that to covid, because they’re like, “Hold on a second. You mean grandma who had three different diseases, I’m supposed to blame that on Trump somehow?” So that was always their problem. They hyped themselves into believing this insane panic about covid, and that panic could work, until lived experience said otherwise. So you could panic people in March, you can panic people even in July, but when it comes to October, and people look around, and they’re like, “There hasn’t been any mass plague deaths”. Instead they look at: my job’s still not back, or my small business is still not back, or my kid can’t go to school, and they’re like, what the heck is all this for? So they made a big gamble, and that gamble lost.

    [Baris]: Well it didn’t lose yet, right, but you think it’s heading towards it.

  • Harley says:

    So, the IB really has no plan to deal with the virus, other than to step on the “fear and anxiety” break pedal, and to lay down some pipe for further emergency orders and shutdowns. No consideration of costs or impact on other parts of the state, its economy, or its people.

    But an unhappy day of reckoning is coming soon. In early November, we will get an update on the Minnesota’s budget for the budget cycle that ends June 30, 2021, about 8 months out. At the time of the last update in May, expected revenue was slashed $3.6 billion and a shortfall of $2.4 billion was projected, a shortfall greater than the state’s “rainy day” fund. Having chased 400,000 workers out of downtown Minneapolis, forced undue hardship on restaurants, small businesses, and travel/ tourism/entertainment businesses, one has to reasonably expect a further hit to revenue and a less optimistic 2021. Maybe a really nasty hit.

    Maybe then the IB will understand that there was a large and very real “cost” to his emergency orders that he should have thought about.

    Or was that Lt. Gov. Flanagan’s job to think about those things?

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