Much as it pains me, I must comment on both the Friday daily briefing, at which the Governor was not present, and the news conference given by the Governor when he was forced to relent on keeping churches from opening. (Wouldn’t want any singing, you know.) In Friday’s briefing, Commissioner Malcolm, who has the worst job in the world right now, having to try to clean up the Governor’s messes and be his stand-in, since he now regularly avoids the opportunity to be questioned. She did her best to keep up the fear campaign and convince people that things are getting worse and worse. But here is the most interesting thing that came out of this briefing. The Governor regularly tells us how he is working with everyone and considering other perspectives, including those of the opposite party. In answer to a question, however, Commissioner Malcolm said that she had not met with legislative leaders, and in particular with Republican legislative leaders. That is simply astounding. The person supposedly leading the charge has not met one time with leaders from one of the two primary parties in the state, to hear their views or answer their questions. If you didn’t think that the Governor has cocooned himself with people who only tell him what he wants to hear before, this confirms it.
And the Governor was his usual verbose, bombastic self in the backdown news conference. He managed to sneak in at least one outright lie, as he tried to say in an aside that Minnesota has kept up the second lowest unemployment rate as a result of the lockdowns. That is a flat out lie, go google any number of sites and you will see that Minnesota has one of the highest unemployment rates, worse than any of our surrounding states. The state’s own website shows over 700,000 newly unemployed, and in places that is over 33% of the workforce. Yes, the Governor is very balanced in his consideration of what actions are appropriate. The usual memes were on full display–he is only concerned about safety and security (apparently unless you are a nursing home resident or employed); it is so dangerous and risky, stay home, worst is not past, it’s climbing, science, data, experts, balance, etc. I look at the Minnesota data very regularly. The rates of positive tests are not climbing, hospitalizations as a percent of cases are falling. Deaths have been relatively plateaued for weeks, and if you took out the congregate living residents would be very low. Meanwhile the Minnesota model he has relied upon is failing him badly–it says we have several hundred thousand cases by the end of May.
Then we get the usual big brother, state knows best, totalitarian rhetoric as he tries to guilt and shame everyone. Just so everyone understands, the “science” behind both masks and 6 feet is completely shaky, but the more important issue is that there clearly is so little risk to Minnesotans that they ought to be trusted to make their own judgments about how to keep safe. And then of course, he says how sympathetic he is to how hard it has been for people and the contradictions in certain rules and guidelines just drive him crazy too, as though he is not the one promulgating these orders. The tap-dancing is unbelievable and would be humorous if the actions weren’t causing such unbelievable pain. And he says we just have to keep doing this til we get a vaccine. That is pure BS. The better approach, which Minnesotans appear to be taking into their own hands, is for there to be a continued mild spread that generates enough immunity in the population to largely suppress the virus.
Some additional points that the press will never call him on. He claims that Georgia restaurants have only seen 15% of prior business since reopening. If you thought that is what will happen here–that people will stay away from fear–then why not reopen. And how come Wisconsin restaurants seem to be packed if everyone is staying away? Notice how Wisconsin cases have surged since they were forced to eliminate the shutdown? Go look at the Wisconsin data on Covid Tracking. By now any surge would have showed up. No change at all in rates of positive tests. And how is it that Wisconsin, with a slightly bigger population than Minnesota has managed to have significantly fewer deaths? Oh, maybe they know something we should follow on how to protect nursing home residents.
He defended his holding on to emergency powers by saying he needs it for things like ordering the National Guard to do testing, but everything he is doing now could be done by legislative action. And it should be. I think at this point he wants to hold on to those powers. It is how he can try to control the situation when it is falling apart. The next two weeks will be his downfall. I predict that there will be no significant rise in cases or deaths, that in fact we will clearly have plateaued (the peak in cases actually looks like mid-May) and that there simply will be no basis for any restrictions. But don’t expect the Governor to either acknowledge errors or apologize.