I went online to watch Governor Walz March 25 video explaining why the
Stay Home order was required. I think it’s useful to remember why we
started down this road.
In the video, Governor Walz explained that if we did nothing, upwards of
74,000 Minnesotans of all ages would die, from 6 months to 90 years
old. It was already too late to “flatten the curve;” testing didn’t get
started early enough. All we could do was push the peak out, delay it
until we could get ready for the surge of Covid-19 cases that the
computer model predicted was coming. If we did nothing, the surge would
hit in 6 weeks (May 8th). If we did nothing, 2.4 million Minnesotans
would be infected, 85% of them mildly, 15% requiring hospitalization,
and 5% requiring ICU care.
I’m not clear if Governor Walz meant 5% of the whole 2.4 million =
120,000 people in ICU; or 5% of the 15% who are hospitalized = 18,000 in
ICU. Either way, we only had 235 ICU beds at the time of the first
order. We didn’t have enough ICU beds, ventilators, masks to care for
that many ICU patients. Thousands would die, untreated.
If Minnesotans heeded his order to Stay Home, we would slow the spread
of the infection. 2.4 million were still going to get it, but not right
away. That gave us time to prepare for the ICU surge. With Stay Home
in place, the ICU surge would be delayed until late May or June. By
then, we’d be ready for the 120,000 (or 18,000) ICU patients. We’d
convert arenas, stadiums, motels, into temporary hospitals providing as
many as 1,000 ICU beds. Still had to work on getting ventilators and
masks, etc., but if we had enough time to prepare, we’d save lives.
Governor Walz asked for two weeks to delay the surge so we would have
time to prepare. That’s why the original order lasted two weeks.
I went online to watch Governor Walz video explaining the extension of
the Stay Home order. He said we were making progress. The infection
curve was pretty much flat. That’s good because it buys us time to
prepare for the surge, and there is a surge of hospitalizations coming.
We’re going to need a MINIMUM of 3,000 ICU beds starting in mid-May,
could last into July, could need more beds.
Current ICU bed capacity at the time of the extension was 1,000 but we
can double it in 24 hours, triple it in 72 hours. Another 3,000 beds
coming online in alternate facilities but not for Covid patients, those
are for displaced patients from other hospitalizations. According to
the model, we now have plenty of ICU beds but we’re still facing a
shortage of ventilators. We have 2,500, we need 3,000, we have none in
reserve, they’re all in use. They’re on back-order. Minnesotans need
to stay home to delay the hospitalization surge until the back-ordered
ventilators arrive. And there’s still a shortage of masks. Supply
chain disrupted world-wide. Minnesotans need to stay home to delay the
hospitalization surge until mask supply arrives.
The Governor assured us the experts were constantly updating the model.
Ro increased from 2.4 to 4.0 (formerly, we thought each infected person
transmitted it to 2.4 people, now it’s assumed to be 4 people, spreads
much faster than thought). Hospitalization severity and length of stay
also adjusted (didn’t say up or down). If we drop restrictions, the
surge of hospitalizations comes rushing toward us and we’re not ready.
Thousands will die. Stay Home to save lives.
The plan originally was sold on the basis that this virus attacked
everybody, babies to elderly, we’re all equally at risk of dying from
it. Data from around the world (and around Minnesota) suggest that’s
not true. This virus attacks the same people as every other influenza
virus – seniors and those with a compromised immune system. The
scariest basis for the order, is gone.
The plan originally was sold on the basis that a two week delay would
suffice, we’d have time to prepare for the surge of cases. Because the
whole thing depends on a surge of cases slamming our hospitals in a few
weeks. The Governor’s models confidently proved it would happen, we
were going to get slammed, it was only a matter of time. Except . . .
Dr. Fauci of the CDC now says he expects this to be similar to a bad flu
season, maybe 60,000 dead nationwide. And nobody else is seeing a
surge. If there’s no surge coming, then the entire basis for the order
Assuming the surge hits as planned in May, Governor Walz says we’ll need
3,000 ICU beds and we’re ready for that, but still not enough
ventilators or masks. No word on why that’s such a problem. If the My
Pillow guy can make masks, why can’t Minnesota figure out a way to
acquire them? Can’t we ask idled machine shops and metal workers and
backyard mechanics to cobble up machines? We only need a couple of
thousand more ventilators – how hard can it be? I’m guessing the
Governor means “FDA certified and approved” which, obviously, takes time
and raises the cost. How many patients would say, “Oh, no, don’t treat
me wearing that un-certified mask, leave me to die.” Can’t we by-pass
the certification process for this world-ending emergency?
The plan was sold on the basis that we’d be saving lives. The math
doesn’t work for me. Assuming the best numbers, if 18,000 will need ICU
beds but we only have 3,000, then when the surge hits we’re still short
thousands of ICU beds so all of those people are going to die. By my
math, the Stay Home saves 2,765 lives (the difference between 235 ICU
beds before and 3,000 ICU beds after). And who are those people? Based
on experience to date, they’re nursing home patients with preexisting
conditions who are going to die soon, anyway.
The cost of providing this end-of-life care is incredible. 375,000
Minnesotans have applied for unemployment. Our unemployment rate is
over 11%. And those are only the people who qualify. Small business
owners, restaurant owners, landlords, independent contractors,
commissioned sales – they don’t get unemployment. The Governor says
that with Minnesota’s generous unemployment benefits coupled with the
federal $600, many people actually will make as much or more then they
did before. I’ll believe that when I see it.
Point is, we’re shutting down the entire state for months, costing
millions, destroying wealth and lives and careers, turning citizens
against each other, betting a surge is coming and that we’ll be able to
buy a short end-of-life extension for a few thousand old folks. That
might be a wise public policy trade-off, or it might not. But it’s
something that ought to be debated in public, with the costs and
benefits weighed, not decided unilaterally and continued indefinitely.
I call on the Legislature to hold public hearings on whether to continue
the state of emergency, or to end it.
When Norway – as top-down communitarian a state as there is, which had a hard, sharp attack of Covid and a sharper reaction to seeing Italy and Spain’s agony, and closed down hard (and suffered more deaths than Minnesota, so far, with a similar population) – is moving to lift its lockdown now, even given their immense savings and the ability it gives them to ride out crises, that should tell us something.