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Coronavirus in one state (141)

The Minnesota Department of Health held its final press briefing of the week yesterday. While most of the briefing was devoted to vaccine distribution, the first question (from Jeremy Olson) addressed the the shutdown of indoor service at bars and restaurants throughout the state. I have posted the audio below. Olson’s question comes at about 12:00.

Olson’s question is premised in part on the obvious recession of the current wave of the epidemic in Minnesota. In fact, this wave of the epidemic has receded throughout the Upper Midwest regardless of the approach taken by the states (tweet below). Kevin Roche has more data on this point here.

Olson notes that only 2 percent of cases can be traced to bars and restaurants. What data support the current shutdown regime?

MDH Commissioner Malcolm and Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann both take stabs at an answer. Ehresmann more or less concedes that they don’t have data specific to bars and restaurants to support the shutdown. On this point, see John Phelan’s excellent Center of the American Experiment excellent post reviewing the data.

So where does Ehresmann land? Sturgis! It’s almost funny.

Ehresmann doesn’t cite the Sturgis data. The MDH report on the Sturgis rally was posted here by the CDC on November 27. Summary:

Following a 10-day motorcycle rally in South Dakota attended by approximately 460,000 persons, 51 confirmed primary event-associated cases, 21 secondary cases, and five tertiary cases were identified in Minnesota residents. An additional nine likely rally-associated secondary or tertiary cases occurred. Four patients were hospitalized, and one died. Genomic sequencing supported the associations with the motorcycle rally.

Four of the 86 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized and one died. The study drew the following implications for public health practice:

The impact of gatherings as a source of virus transmission underscores the importance of reducing the number of attendees at gatherings, using face masks, and encouraging physical distancing to prevent ongoing transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, these findings demonstrate the rationale for consistent mitigation measures across states.

That’s it. Eighty-six Minnesota COVID-19 cases were associated with the South Dakota motorcycle rally that drew a total of 460,000 citizens over the course of the 10-day rally. Conclusion: Avoid “gatherings.” You have got to be kidding me.

One more point. Bars and restaurants remain open at tribal casinos and at the MSP International Airport. If the closure of bars and restaurants is a matter of life and death, what accounts for the silence of the authorities on this point? They can’t be serious.