An Open Letter to Governor Walz

By April 17, 2020 Commentary

Dear Governor Walz:

The time has come for you to be a real leader, acknowledge your mistake and change course.  I am sure you may have believed you were taking the appropriate action when you in essence shut down the state’s economy and social life out of fear that the coronavirus epidemic might take thousands of lives in Minnesota and that there may be deaths which could have been avoided, but weren’t because the state health system’s capacity to treat all the serious illnesses that might occur was insufficient.   For the time-being, we will overlook your error in accepting at face value a model which, by its authors’ own statements, was based on information which was too limited to create accurate scenarios and should not have been relied upon.  At some point, you will have to explain why you used the most extreme numbers produced by that model to justify your actions, numbers that were never credible and that have since been revised downward by half or more.  It will be harder to forgive the complete failure to do any analysis of the economic harm, job loss and non-economic damage that would be caused by your order and to weigh the relative harms and benefits of alternative approaches to mitigating the spread of the virus, even though at the time you issued your initial order it was apparent that the virus only presented a high risk of serious illness and death to specific sub-populations, like the infirm elderly.

But we are where we are today.  And where we are is 500,000 Minnesotans who have lost their jobs.  Approaching 20% of the entire state workforce.  Over 25% of those who have filed for unemployment benefits have a high school degree or less.  Over 25% of the entire minority workforce has lost their jobs.  Suicides, child and domestic abuse, mental illness, divorces, homelessness, food insecurity; all are up due to your actions which resulted in extensive anxiety about the epidemic and the tremendous loss of jobs.  On the other hand, it is now even more apparent that the virus poses no serious health threat to the vast, vast majority of the population.  Younger, healthy people don’t even seem to become infected and if they do, are asymptomatic or suffer mild illnesses in almost every case.  Your own models show that various scenarios of mitigation of spread measures show no difference between the harsh and extreme lockdown you have ordered and a more targeted approach aimed at the elderly and other vulnerable sub-populations.

So why have you not changed course in the face of the horrendous damage you have inflicted on the lives of most Minnesotans?  Why have you not acknowledged that a more targeted approach to mitigating the virus spread would work just as well?   Are you too prideful to admit a mistake?  Worried about losing face?  There is too much at stake for such a foolish attitude.  Come on man, it is time to do the right thing.

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