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Coronavirus in one state (153) (updated)

Having awaited the courtesy of a reply for eight days, I found it anti-climactic yesterday to receive the mostly unresponsive answers to my questions submitted to the Minnesota Department of Health in the early morning hours of February 1:

1. Question: Please provide the data you have compiled bearing one way or the other on the effectiveness of your 5-point plan to reduce spread of the epidemic in long-term care facilities and other congregate care settings.

Answer: Here is the most up-to-date data compilation report: Long-term Care COVID-19 Response: November 2020 Update (PDF).

2. Question: The current executive order requires the wearing of masks for youth sports. No such requirement is imposed on college athletes. Please explain the disparate treatment.

Answer: College athletes are required to mask unless they are doing an aggressive testing regimen.

This is provided for in Executive Order 20-01, paragraph 7 (h)(i)(B):

i. “Organized Adult Sports” means any sports activity in which participants are adults and which is organized by an entity, association, club, or organization providing for registration of participants and oversight on a regular basis for a defined period of time. “Organized Adult Sports” does not include:

A. Professional sports, meaning sports in which the athletes receive non-de minimis payment for performance.

B. Collegiate sports, meaning any collegiate or university institution team or athlete participating in intercollegiate athletics, provided that the team or athlete follows guidance for sports activities as listed in COVID-19 Intercollegiate Sports Guidance for Higher Education available at MDH’s Institutes of Higher Education website.

The optional testing program and exceptions to the general face covering requirement for college athletes are primarily described at pages 3 and 4 of the guidance document that is referenced by and incorporated into the executive order.

3. Question: Please explain in light of the CDC study on schools opening safely why schools in Minnesota not fully open for in-person learning.

Answer: The study referenced is one of a growing number of studies that provide evidence for low rates of in-school transmission when core mitigation strategies such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, cohorting groups of students, proper ventilation, keeping sick individuals out of the school settings, and quarantine and testing after exposures are well implemented. Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year has always emphasized the importance of using these same strategies to support the success of schools providing in-person learning opportunities; the Minnesota learning plan does encourage local decision making around school reopening, so long as the appropriate protective strategies are being implemented effectively to support the safety and health of school communities.

Please note that in question 2 I asked for an explanation and that the answer, as I understand it, is “because this is what the governor decreed.” Minnesota citizens, in other words, are treated like children. And children, we see in response to question 3, are treated like disposable commodities by those indebted to the teachers’ unions (as Kevin Roche notes here).

I await a promised answer to my question regarding cases traced by the department to tribal casinos. As of this morning, the cat has got their big damned tongue.

The department held press briefings on February 2 and February 4. The focus was on issues related to vaccination and variants of the virus manifested in Minnesota. I found nothing of general interest other than the incredibly low level of inquiry by the media.

The most recent wave of the epidemic has receded in Minnesota along with the rest of the Upper Midwest. The data reported yesterday, for example, included only 586 new “cases” and six new deaths — five of which occurred among residents of long-term care facilities, that 5-point plan notwithstanding. Yet we remain under the regime of one-man emergency rule declared by Governor Tim “Tear Down This” Walz. We have an emergency, all right: it is an emergency to return to regular order.

UPDATE: Reader Kyle Christensen comments on the MDH response to my school-opening question:

I’ve followed your Coronavirus in One State series closely, as I’ve been a constant Power Line reader probably since you started on Blogger. You won’t be surprised that I’m writing to call attention to the lie you were told by the Minnesota Department of Health in the responses to questions you posted today.

Specifically, you were told: “Minnesota learning plan does encourage local decision making around school reopening, so long as the appropriate protective strategies are being implemented effectively to support the safety and health of school communities.”

It does no such thing. And there is very little such “local decision making.” Instead, The Safe Learning Plan directs school districts which learning model they must use at arbitrary county-case rate measures [table below].

The only “local decision” possible is to be MORE restrictive than these guidelines prescribe. For less, requires permission from “Regional Support Teams” staffed by MDE and MDH representatives. The Regional Support Teams apply these arbitrary measures somewhat arbitrarily. Some districts have received permission to remain in hybrid, when distance learning would have been required. Other districts have their plans rejected by their Regional Support Team.

At the start of the school year, East Sibley school district, just southwest of the Twin Cities voted to start the year in-person, against the Safe Learning Plan guidelines. They were threatened by the State with lost funding and potential jail time for Board members, but the reality also is that Executive Order 20-82 and the Safe Learning Plan clearly authorize the MDE Commissioner to overrule the local school board and administration and close schools if she determines to do so. (The Star Tribune reported on this.)

As a result, many districts across the State don’t even bother advocating for students with their RST. Some encouragement of “local decision making.”

I know these things because I am co-founder of Let Them Learn MN, and work with parents and school leaders, and have verified their stories. Local decision making is a talking point, not a truth.

In any case, closing schools has caused immeasurable harm to students across the State. Let Them Learn MN is at the forefront of parent-lead organizations standing up and pushing back.

The site of Mr. Christensen’s organization is Let Them Learn MN.