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Coronavirus in one state (154)

(Scott Johnson)

In the questions I submitted to the Minnesota Department of Health last week, I sought to learn why one of our internist readers was unable to get his prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin filled by a major pharmaceutical chain for his patients’ off-label use. In their responses MDH professed not to know. They referred me to the Board of Pharmacy.

I called the executive director of the Board of Pharmacy. He spoke to me for 30 minutes and would have gone longer if I had not had to beg off for a meeting. He explained that this issue could and should be resolved between the pharmacy and the physician.

I relayed the explanation to our physician reader, who followed up as “prescribed” by the executive director. He wrote to advise that “this was a Walgreens corporate decision and based on whether or not a drug has ‘established use’ even though it is being used off label or repurposed.”

Beyond this specific issue, what I learned is that the contrast between the Board of Pharmacy and the Minnesota Department of Health could not be more stark. The contrast strongly favors the Board of Pharmacy. It is willing and able to provide relevant information. MDH, as we have seen, not so much.

Which reminds me. I am still waiting for a long-promised answer to my question about the number of cases MDH has traced to tribal casinos.

In Minnesota as elsewhere in the Upper Midwest and around the country we are on the far side of the fall surge. When Governor Walz imposed his stringent lockdown regime this past November, Kevin Roche promptly explained in a Star Tribune op-column that we were already on the other side of the surge. Published on December 1, Kevin’s column ran under the headline “COVID’s fall surge peaked before Walz order.” See also Kevin’s current post “Seasonality, seasonality, seasonality.”

Events have proved Kevin right (again). The numbers in Minnesota continue to decline. Yesterday, for example, two new deaths were attributed to the epidemic. Both decedents fell in the 75-79 age range.

Although Walz has loosened the strictures of the lockdown regime he decreed this past November, he continues to control the dials of our lives. There is no legitimate excuse for schools not to resume business as usual. There is no legitimate excuse for his continued exercise of emergency powers. There is no emergency.

Since I last reported MDH held press briefings an February 11 and 16. Yesterday’s briefing (audio below) detailed the decline in the relevant numbers. I found certain of the questions to be of general interest. Why aren’t schools completely open? Answer: we’re thinking about it. Are school dances safe? Answer: no. You would never know that lives are being ruined in the name of public health.