A Quick Minnesota Update

By August 31, 2020 Commentary

Waiting on my web person to get some charts done, so that is why the low posting today, and kind of a slow research day.

In yesterday’s briefing, among the most notable items was a reporter pressing for actual measures to show the impact of the mask mandate.  The officials danced around the answer and tried to say that the recent “stabilization” of cases was consistent with a benefit.  To demonstrate that masks had an effect, whether cases were going up, staying flat, or declining, you would need to show a decline in the trend, and that the decline wasn’t due to some other factor.  It takes a while for the Minnesota cases by date of specimen collection table to be pretty complete, so I need a few more days before I can do an initial analysis, but so far, when taking testing rates into account, there is no evidence of any effect.

The other interesting back and forth with a reporter, in light of the Sturgis terrorism, is that the state finally gave an estimate of cases resulting from involvement in the protests (riots), which was over 240 cases.  I doubt Sturgis will get there in Minnesota, but gosh, we really wish that people hadn’t gone there.  Rioting is apparently fine.

And the reinfection case was the first question, but the state officials admirably, though not in the most accurate way, refused to take the bait and spark panic about lack of immunity or what it might mean for a vaccine.  Would have been a good opportunity to explain how adaptive immunity actually works.

And today we got an extra special briefing so the state could announce something we really don’t need, a new lab dedicated to saliva testing.  There is too much testing, not too little.  Most of the testing being done is pointless, very few tests are positive and those that are, are almost all asymptomatic cases.  We are testing the same people over and over again.  Oh, and did I mention that there are increasing concerns about the accuracy of the tests, especially in a low prevalence environment.  All testing does it come up with phony “cases” that allow politicians and the media to keep us in a state of frenzied fear.  At this point, especially in regard to schools and colleges, it is like testing for cold viruses and constantly putting out data to the effect of “50 students have a cold today”.  So what.  The current approach has no strategy, no clear objective, no rationale.

Ooooohhh, though, we are up to 35 cases from Sturgis, but the one person hospitalized has already been released.  They are holding out hope that the number will go up from “secondary” transmission.  I think we are done with the Sturgis panic, have to shift back to meatpacking plants, or bars or something.

Someone asked a fairly good question about what are we trying to do–suppress the virus or mitigate the spread.   The Commissioner was her usual elliptical self, but did say that suppression wasn’t possible “at the state level”.  Suppression isn’t possible, period, and the costs of trying to get there, as we are constantly finding out, are enormous, a far greater health toll than that from the virus itself, not to mention the economic and social cost.  But it sure seems like we are trying suppression with the completely unbalanced set of policies currently enforced by the Incompetent Blowhard.

The Commissioner makes these statements that are just flat wrong, and she must know it.  She made a reference to how we had a high rate of community spread and a rapid case growth.  We have nothing going on.  If we weren’t testing so much, and probably getting a high rate of false positives, you wouldn’t notice that there is a health issue.  If we average 600 cases a day, that is about one in every 10,000 Minnesotans.  It means nothing.  And there has been no case growth, there never was rapid case growth since the first weeks of the epidemic, particularly when the amount of testing is taken into account.  Remember when doubling time was so important, because they could scare the hell out of us with it when the number of cases was small.  Want to know what the doubling time is now–100 days, wonder why they don’t use that statistic anymore?

It is long past time to end the emergency powers and return to a state of normal and stop worrying about a virus that is far less lethal than the flu.  A reader, J. Lindvall, looks at this the way I would.  There have been 1779 deaths attributed to CV so far (my review of death certificates indicates how absurd saying this number of deaths was actually caused by CV is) and 1315 have occurred in congregate care.  That leaves 464 in the general population.  Minnesota’s population is estimated at around 5,700,000.  There were about 80,000 people in these congregate care settings before we started killing them.  464 out of 5,620,000 is a rate of .008% for the general public, that is 8 one-thousandths of a percent.  And most of those people are very old as well, so for people under 60, the likelihood of death is ridiculously low.  1315 deaths out of 80,000 congregate care residents, on the other hand, is 1.6%.  Yes, 1.6% of all those residents died with (with, not usually because of) coronavirus.  If you want a little more math, congregate care residents have a 200 times greater risk of dying than do Minnesotans in the general population, and over a 2000 times greater risk than do people under 60 in the general population.

As the reader pointed out, we have been in this epidemic for about 160 days, so in the general population, about 2.9 deaths per day of the epidemic.  Since I have the death certificates, with some lag estimate, I know there are roughly 140 deaths a day in Minnesota.  So in the general population, coronavirus has accounted for only 2% of deaths.  An epidemic is typically defined as at least 7% of deaths being attributed to the pathogen.  Time to move on from the coronavirus obsession.

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