Minnesota and Wisconsin

By June 8, 2020 Commentary

Minnesota and Wisconsin, as do many neighboring states, share a generally friendly rivalry.  The states started out taking a fairly similar approach to the epidemic, putting extreme stay-at-home and business shutdown orders in place.  In Wisconsin, however, the legislature and the citizenry revolted and a sensible state Supreme Court agreed with them and on May 13, now over three weeks ago, vacated the orders.  The state has since functioned under what its Governor called a “Wild West” approach to the epidemic.  Must be a disaster in the making.  Well, let us take a look.

The population of the two states is very similar, Wisconsin is slightly more populous.  They are both large, rural states, with one large metro area, although Wisconsin’s largest, Milwaukee is smaller than the Minneapolis/St. Paul urban complex.  Wisconsin does have a larger second urban area in Madison.  So similar overall population density.  From the very start of the epidemic, Wisconsin has had fewer cases, despite more testing until very recently, and fewer deaths.  That trend has continued since the Wisconsin lockdown orders were declared illegal.  This may be due to Wisconsin somehow doing a better job avoiding long-term care deaths. That is not clear to me.  The state lists about 48% of deaths occurring among residents of what Minnesota classifies as long-term care, but it has a large percent of deaths listed as unknown residential status, although a note implies that all group living deaths have been reported.  Such residents account for over 80% of Minnesota’s deaths.

I won’t bore you with a lot of detailed statistics.  Here is where Wisconsin’s data is.  (Wis. Data)   And here is Minnesota’s.  (Mn. Data)   You can also find easily understandable data about every state at the COVID tracking site.  (CV Data)   Wisconsin has a 6.1% rate of positive results on all infection tests.  Minnesota’s is 8.2%.  Roughly similar.  In recent weeks, the positive rates in both states have declined sharply, largely due to testing increases.  Wisconsin has a case fatality rate of 3.1%, Minnesota’s is 4.3%.  Again, I don’t pay much attention to this because we simply don’t know the real number of infected people, but on a population rate, Wisconsin also has a significantly lower death rate.

Most importantly, Wisconsin gives us a look at seven day moving averages for cases.  You can see the decline setting in and you see no change in that after the orders were vacated.  If the incubation period is around 5 days, you would have expected to see a big uptick in cases if the lockdown orders really were suppressing spread that much.  There simply isn’t one, at all, in fact the trend began to decline in this period, despite more testing.  No noticeable uptick in hospitalizations or deaths either.   Lifting the lockdown made no difference at all.  The implication is obvious, we didn’t need one in the first place.

So when our Governor blathers on and on about the science and the data and what the public health experts tell him, it is all bullshit.  It’s over, Timmy, it’s over.   Now the Governor hilariously yesterday made some comments implying that somehow the virus was different from place to place or the science or something.  This is startling news, that the laws of science could be so different in two adjoining states.  Somehow the virus knows a Minnesotan from a Wisconsinite.  (It is true that we drink less and eat less cheese, but not much less in either case.)  Our Governor’s desperate grasping at straws to explain his grotesquely excessive lockdown is getting beyond pathetic.

Here is the real difference.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court recognized that one person shouldn’t have the power to determine, and ruin, the lives of everyone, and had faith that the people would be capable of making their own decisions about how to manage what they perceived as the risk.  And I am sure there are people in Wisconsin who are largely staying home and who are being careful if they perceive themselves as being at risk.  That is the way it should work.

Our Governor thinks we are all idiots who have to be told exactly what to do and how to do it, down to the smallest detail.  He doesn’t trust us at all.  And I think he enjoys that power and he clearly won’t give it up.

In this cross-state comparison, Minnesotans are clearly by a large measure the losers.

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