April 24, 2020
The only way we are going to get out of this disaster we have created is to start thinking more sensibly about the risks presented by coronavirus illness. We have two epidemics in the country. One is in the general population, where there is very minimal risk. Rates of hospitalization and deaths for healthy people under the age of 65 are nothing that anyone would be concerned about. No one under the age of 54 has died in the state of Minnesota. Those who were in their 50s all had pre-existing conditions. There is no risk to children and young people; we should never have closed schools and colleges. In fact, we should never have shut down businesses. The surest and fastest way to stop the epidemic, which would protect everyone, but most importantly those most-vulnerable groups, would be to have sufficient immunity in the population. This could be accomplished with little risk to the general population. At that point, transmission of the virus would be basically ended and there would be far less risk to residents of nursing homes. Even our Governor acknowledges that we can’t be shutdown like this until there is a vaccine.
The other epidemic is in nursing homes and other group senior living settings. A Kaiser Family Foundation report details how many deaths have occurred among residents of nursing homes. (KFF Report) Nationwide, about 1.3 million people live in nursing homes, 800,000 in assisted living facilities, and 75,000 in intermediate care facilities. Three million people work in these settings. In just the 23 states that report coronavirus deaths by setting, there have been over 10,000 deaths as of April 23rd. That is 27% of all coronavirus deaths in those states. Residents of these facilities are well under 1% of the population. In many states these settings account for over 50% of all deaths. Long-term care facilities account for 11% of all reported cases in 29 states. The authors of the report say that due to lags in compiling data, the true numbers are even higher.
My home state of Minnesota has one of the worst records, despite our Governor proclaiming ad nauseam how much he is doing to keep Minnesotans “safe” and away from the nasty, evil coronavirus. You can see Minnesota information here, although they don’t make it easy to actually see what is happening. (Mn. Data) So far, about three-fourths of all deaths in Minnesota have occurred among nursing home residents. That is outrageous, especially since everyone knew at the start of the epidemic that the elderly in these settings were very vulnerable.
If you pull the nursing home and other residents in senior group living settings out of the model the state used to justify destroying the economy, you would see that the risk of serious illness and death for the rest of the population is non-existent. The state’s modelers know this, they acknowledged it and said they were going to adjust the models to account for this issue. Why haven’t we seen this done? Would it be too embarrassing for the Governor? It should be done and released immediately. Run a separate model for that nursing home population, so we can see just how bad the epidemic has been in those facilities. And let us see what the general model results look like without that very at-risk population in it. People might instantly change their minds about whether the extreme shutdown and stay-at-home order was ever needed.
Oh, and we do have a third epidemic–one of joblessness, caused by reckless actions from most of our nation’s governors. Now, if you want to see a really scary chart of the joblessness epidemic with an exponential growth curve, look for one on filings of unemployment claims in Minnesota and the United States. You can find them here (Jobless Chart) or look at this one which has the actual scale (Unempl. Chart) Looks a lot worse than the epidemic curves and they are. But you won’t see our Governor or probably yours trotting these charts out. Nope, instead you will get a steady diet of misinformation about how dangerous the coronavirus could be and how important it is that we all stick together. Meanwhile, if you live in a nursing home, you could only conclude that the state doesn’t give a damn what happens to you.