Where We Are Generally and a Few Notes on Minnesota

By May 18, 2020 Commentary

My big picture summary as we head into another week of pointless stay-at-home, safe-at-home and business shutdowns is only a little changed from prior weeks.

This has been and is a serious public health issue.  But, and it is a big but, coronavirus disease only poses any significant, out of the ordinary, risk to a few sub-groups, largely the infirm elderly, particularly those in congregate living settings.  When accurate counts are done, it is almost certain that deaths in that group will represent well over 50% of all deaths.  More experience with cases continues to suggest that less use of ventilators is better.  Remdesivir may provide modest, at best, improvement in outcomes for some patients.  The vast, vast majority of infected people have asymptomatic or mild infections.  While early prospects look hopeful for some vaccine candidates; finalizing testing, manufacturing the vaccine and distributing it worldwide to billions of peoples is a not a certainty or in our near future.  It has become fairly clear that all patients likely produce antibodies after infection.  It is also becoming clearer that many people have pre-existing coronavirus antibodies and other immune defenses that prevent infection by this strain.

The amount of economic damage done by extreme lockdowns and stay-at-home orders is shocking, particularly in the form of job loss and small business closures.  Consumer spending, the true engine of the economy, has been eviscerated.  Many consumers are unduly fearful and that fear must be assuaged and reduced as a precondition to significant economic recovery.  Many health problems have been caused by the shutdowns, including missed health care, missed vaccinations for children, increased mental health issues, increased drug and alcohol addiction and deaths and increased child and spousal abuse.  These extreme orders at most are a delaying tactic, not a long-term solution.  The road back is made more difficult by their existence.

At the press briefing on Friday, Minnesota state officials noted that the Governor has ordered the flag lowered on the 19th of each month to honor coronavirus victims.  That must be his idea of an apology to the long-term care facility residents that account for over 80% of Minnesota deaths.  Data over the weekend continued this trend and continued the several-week trend of deaths hovering around 20 per day.  The rest of the month I assume he will lower the flag to honor the over 650,000 Minnesotans who have lost their jobs due to his irrational over-reaction to the epidemic.  He has been skipping the briefings lately.  Not much else came up at the Friday briefing.  More discussion about how risky it is for all Minnesotans, despite what the data shows.  Some discussion about children, who are at basically zero risk, and Kawasaki disease.  You need to know that this disease affects a number of children every year and there is absolutely no causative link to coronavirus demonstrated at this point.

We all need to keep pressing for a fuller opening of the economy and social life.

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