Coronavirus in one state (106)

5 mins read

When I saw deaths attributed to COVID-19 jumped up to 16 in yesterday’s data, I guessed it was because of an increase in nursing home deaths. In fact, 9 of the 16 deaths occurred among residents of nursing homes. All decedents were elderly. Eight of the 16 were in their 80’s and 90’s.

It’s all about new cases at this time. The Minnesota Department of Health reported 689 new cases yesterday based on 12,820 lab tests. At the MDH press briefing (audio below), Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann characterized the rise in new cases as “an escalating roller coaster.”

The median age of new cases remains 35. The median age of decedents remains 83. At last word a while ago, the percentage of all fatalities with one of the 7 co-morbid conditions was around 98 percent. See, for example, Walz Executive Order 20-55, paragraph 2. If I am ever readmitted to the MDH circle of love, I will request an update on that number with my first question. These 7 conditions are as follows:

i. Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.

ii. Serious heart conditions.

iii. Compromise of the immune system caused by cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, or prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications).

iv. Severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher).

v. Diabetes.

vi. Chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis.

vii. Liver disease.

This information should be provided at every press briefing so that affected individuals can look out for themselves.

On Tuesday the Star Tribune’s Jeremy Olson reported “Hospital COVID-19 admissions on the rise in Minnesota.” The state now withholds the current total of those hospitalized. We are left with daily admissions. Olson tells us that “[h]ospital admissions for COVID-19 have risen to a level not seen in Minnesota since the start of June.” In the middle of his story, however, Olson adds: “Most SARS-CoV-2 infections produce mild or no symptoms.” Resist the panic.

Olson also took up the shift in the data provided:

The uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations comes amid what some critics have argued is an ill-timed switch in how the Minnesota Department of Health reports data. The state last week stopped reporting the total daily number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 and instead started reporting new COVID-19 admissions to hospitals and their intensive care units.

Ehresmann said the switch was made to highlight new admissions, “which are more meaningful measures to tell us about the severity of disease than just looking at how many people are in the hospital on a given day.”

Lost in the switch was a numerical assessment of whether hospitals were nearing capacity levels due to the pandemic. Ehresmann said a more complete assessment is already available on the state COVID-19 response dashboard, which lists the total number of ICU beds filled — by COVID-19 patients and all others.

The switch generated opposition from Republican leaders who have taken issue with many facets of Minnesota’s COVID-19 response under Gov. Tim Walz. But the Minnesota Hospital Association expressed concern Tuesday as well, because its hospitals had been providing the data and had come to rely on the old method of reporting total hospitalizations for planning.

Hospital leaders felt it was the “most important” data point and want the Health Department to restore it, particularly with COVID-19 hospital cases on the rise, said Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and chief executive of the Minnesota Hospital Association.

“If you don’t know how many COVID patients are in the hospital today and in the ICUs today across the state, that leaves a big gap of critical knowledge that hospitals and health care systems need,” he said.

As readers of this series know, I regularly included the hospitalization/ICU census along with the other data reflecting the severity of the epidemic. Why is MDH withholding the data previously provided? That is one question neither Olson nor any other reporter asked at yesterday’s press briefing.

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