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What Gov. Walz and DOH Got Wrong and Still Get Wrong

By February 17, 2022Commentary

Now that this appears to be winding down for the 3rd or 4th time, once more I start thinking about what lessons we should learn.  I say “should” because I don’t think our politicians and public health officials will learn anything and may not be capable of learning anything.  I suspect they will dictate the same panicked, stupid and futile suppression measures that they did this time.  But here I go with what I would hope is kept in mind for the next respiratory virus epidemic and there will be one.  I tried to keep this succinct.

1.  Respiratory virus epidemics have certain known characteristics, which should be assumed to be operative in a new epidemic unless and until there is evidence to the contrary.  Those characteristics include pervasive and hard to identify methods and places of transmission, rapid infection that thwarts an immediate clearing upon exposure, high mutation rates that limit effectiveness of infection or vax-derived immunity against transmission, and relatively low burdens of serious disease or death.  These characteristics should guide an awareness of and attention to the likelihood that interventions to suppress transmission are likely to be ineffective.  In this epidemic, in Minnesota and elsewhere, there was a fundamental belief by public health experts and politicians that they could suppress or significantly limit transmission; a belief which was clearly wrong.

2. Being responsible for public health means being responsible for all of public health, not just the specific disease you are trying to limit.  Whatever measures you take need to be evaluated in regard to their total impact on public health and need to be considered over a long period of time.  In this epidemic, in Minnesota and elsewhere, government actions have done more damage than the virus, and that damage will persist for years or decades.  This includes damage to children’s mental health, educational and social attainment and future economic prospects; damage that cannot be undone.  And more deaths will ultimately be caused by the responses to the epidemic than were actually caused by CV-19.

3.  Modeling in regard to a novel respiratory virus epidemic cannot be relied upon as a primary source of information for decision-making.  Modeling is inherently unreliable because it is dependent on assumptions which have not been tested and for which enough data is not available to even do such testing.  Extreme caution must be taken in regard to the use of any data gathered early in an epidemic; it is very unlikely to be representative of the data gathered during the totality of the epidemic.

4.  There are no experts who can be relied on exlusively.  The widest possible set of perspectives should be considered; everyone’s advice should be questioned for biases, assumptions and lack of consideration of all consequences.

5.  Avoid herd mentality in responses.  No further explanation needed, given the lemming-like government actions in this epidemic.

6.  Avoid the trap of believing that doing something is better than doing nothing.  You can make things worse.

7.  Trust people’s judgment.  If you trust citizens to make their own judgments about appropriate behavior, they will be more informed and make better decisions than if you force behavior on them.

8.  Avoid politicizing responses.  Do not rely on executive actions for more than two or three days.  Any response longer than that must come from legislative bodies and any measure lasting more than a month should be put to a vote.

9.  Provide truly transparent data and research.  Give out all data, explain its sources and possible limitations.  Any research should be fully transparent as well–provide all data, all statistical methods and force authors to perform alternative limitations and all potential issues with the accuracy of findings.  Do not selectively use data or research for messaging purposes to support already decided on response measures.

10.  Because ten is already too many, I will stop on this one, which I view as the most important.  DO NOT TERRORIZE THE CITIZENRY.  Do not exaggerate risk, emphasize the need to be prudent, but go on living one’s life.  Do not discourage people from seeking needed health care.  Keep businesses open and people employed.  KEEP SCHOOLS OPEN.  Don’t isolate the frail elderly at the end of their lives.  People being terrified, anxious and fearful is not good for them or society.

The Walz administration and DOH violated every one of these precepts.  It ignored data and science, while pretending to follow it, and they only used or highlighted data which supported measures the administration had already decided to implement.  The Governor personally and repeatedly lied to and terrorized the public, exaggerating risk.  He bears the responsibility for creating a higher total toll on public health than we would be experiencing if he had been more moderate in his tone and in his actions.  Thanks, IB, you truly are a pathetic weasel.


Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Gregory Fink says:

    Masterful and succinct.

    Even independent of respiratory viruses — rules to live by.

  • Rob says:

    Excellent list Kevin. I wouldn’t add a thing.

    Bureaucrats – public and private – reacted this this as if it was as bad as tuberculosis which it clearly was not. Maybe we need a list for the citizenry to follow as a guideline. Number one on that list should be “Do not look to politicians and political appointees for guidance. “

  • Old Hoya says:

    Thank you for your heroic labors. You provided more high quality data, more links to relevant studies and a more rational, data-grounded perspective than the entire federal government and most states. I recognize that that doing better than the feds is not a very high bar these days but praiseworthy nonetheless.

  • Joe says:

    All of your suggestions assume of course that Big Government has the public’s best interest at heart and will want to do better next time. In the case of Covid, I submit they were simply following orders to comply with a larger narrative being forced upon society. So their true ‘service’ is not to the public, rather it is to the global elites that control MSM, big tech, and pharma all coordinating together. Sounds incredible, but events of the last 2 years clearly support this.

    Consider Covid just a trial run, the next authoritarian over-reach will be climate change and climate lock downs. Why? Well its “an existential threat and we must all make sacrifices for the collective good!” Sound familiar? Of course it does, we are all now conditioned to obey and comply! The only way out is massive, coordinated protest and non-compliance. They’re just warming up (climate change pun intended)!

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