Corona Talk – Updated March 31

By Roy Rudderforth

March 31 – Sebeka, MN

I’m posting from our Sebeka Office here in “God’s Country,” where so far there have been no signs of COVID-19. Here’s a selection of data from the Minnesota Health Department. I apologize to those of you tuning in from other states, but we are first and foremost a local publication. I’m sure you state’s health department can supply good data for your situation.

Total approximate number of completed tests: 19,780

  • Total approximate number of completed tests from the MDH Public Health Lab: 8,104
  • Total approximate number of completed tests from external laboratories: 11,676

Minnesota Case Information

  • Total positive: 629
    • Patients who no longer need to be isolated: 288
    • Deaths: 12

Cumulative total and daily confirmed cases in Minnesota: Date reported, Positive cases, Total Positive: 3/6, 1, 1 3/7, 0, 1 3/8, 1, 2 3/9, 0, 2 3/10, 1, 3 3/11, 2, 5 3/12, 4, 9 3/13, 5, 14 3/14, 7, 21 3/15, 14, 35 3/16, 19, 54 3/17, 6, 60 3/18, 17, 77 3/19, 12, 89 3/20, 26, 115 3/21, 22, 137 3/22, 32, 169 3/23, 66, 235 3/24, 26, 261 3/25, 26, 287 3/26, 59, 346 3/27, 52, 398 3/28, 43, 441 3/29, 62, 503 3/30, 73, 576 3/31, 53, 629

Hospitalization

  • Total cases requiring hospitalization: 112
    • Hospitalized as of today: 56
      • Hospitalized in ICU as of today: 26

Demographics

Age Range for confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota: Age range, number positive: 0 - 5 years, 3 6 - 19 years, 17 20 - 44 years, 277 45 - 64 years, 209 65+ years, 123

Median Age Age Range
All cases 46 5 months – 104 years
Non-hospitalized cases 42 5 months – 104 years
Hospitalized cases 63 6 – 95 years
Hospitalized cases in ICU 62 33 – 95 years
Deaths 86 58 – 95 years

Cases by County of Residence

County Cases
Anoka 23
Beltrami 4
Benton 1
Big Stone 1
Blue Earth 9
Brown 2
Carlton 1
Carver 10
Cass 1
Chisago 3
Clay 6
Clearwater 2
Cottonwood 2
Dakota 47
Dodge 8
Douglas 1
Faribault 2
Fillmore 8
Goodhue 3
Hennepin 204
Isanti 2
Itasca 1
Jackson 1
Kandiyohi 2
Lac qui Parle 1
Le Sueur 15
Lincoln 1
Lyon 1
Mahnomen 1
Martin 25
Meeker 1
Mower 13
Nicollet 3
Olmsted 53
Otter Tail 1
Ramsey 56
Renville 1
Rice 3
Scott 10
Sherburne 8
Sibley 1
St. Louis 12
Stearns 5
Steele 6
Traverse 2
Wabasha 6
Waseca 3
Washington 39
Watonwan 1
Wilkin 1
Winona 10
Wright 6

  • Gender: 52% female, 48% male, 0% other

I would just like to note that Wadena, Hubbard and 33 other Minnesota counties have had no confirmed cases as of today.

I’m not a big fan of mathematical models but I have been looking at one developed by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent population health research center at the University of Washington. This narrowly-defined model used data on confirmed COVID-19 deaths by day and observed COVID-19 utilization data from select locations to develop a statistical model forecasting deaths and hospital utilization against capacity by state for the U.S. over the next four months. It’s available at http: www.healthdata.org/covid/updates. It’s essentially a planning tool for public health and medical facilities. It essentially models death rate and medical resources needed for peak usage state by state. It’s probably a little on the high side since it’s better to be over-prepared. Right now the model projects peak medical resource usage in Minnesota will happen on April 18. The state will need 570 invasive ventilators at that time. It appears that the state has sufficient bed space at this time, but could be short 357 ICU beds. The model also projects 1,039 deaths by August 4, but that was just about half of what was projected the day prior. Perhaps our flatten the curve efforts are starting to pay off.

 

Previous Posts

March 26 – Sebeka

I feel blessed, and maybe a little guilty, that my life has changed so little during the COVID-19 scare. With snow still on the ground, my high school sports duties would be on hiatus anyway, and I would still have to find other things to write about. I’m all set-up to work from home, have been for years and it’s been handy for sickness and foul weather. The thing is, there’s not anything newsworthy happening in my living room. For that I have to get out of the house, and so I still spend time traveling about and working in the Sebeka office on weekdays. I even took a trip to our Nevis office recently to catch up on some computer maintenance.

Now let’s look at some numbers from the Minnesota Health Department (MDH) that I find very interesting.  As of March 27, approximately 14,003 COVID-19 tests have been administered. Of that number, 398 have tested positive. Hospitalization has been required in 51 cases, with 34 cases still in the hospital. There have been four deaths in Minnesota. What can we speculate based on these numbers? Perhaps our efforts to “flatten the curve” have helped because it sure doesn’t look like hospitals are being overwhelmed by the virus. The numbers also suggest that COVID-19 might be no more deadly than regular flu strains, depending upon age and existing medical conditions. For those who say there could be many more cases that we don’t know about, I’m going to agree with you.  I think a lot of those folks will never be counted because they contracted it and got over it without medical advice or intervention. Think about. I didn’t see a doctor for the flu for most of my adult life. Why? Because there was little a doctor could do for me other than tell me to drink plenty of fluids and other general purpose advice. With the advent of prescription medications like Tamaflu, a doctor’s visit now makes sense. That’s only happened once for me since I do get my flu shot. For a little more perspective, let’s look at the MDH flu report for 2019-20. After 12 weeks there have been 3,953 hospitalizations and 135 deaths due to the flu.

I bring all this up because I think it’s time to think about the best way to return to something that resembles a normal life for as many of us as possible. Not for me. I’m good. I’m still working. My bills are paid up and I have a little put aside for a rainy day. There’s food in the freezer and the pantry, along with fish in the lake and game in the forest. Bring it on.  On the other hand. I don’t have a family to support. I’m just thinking there are more than few people who don’t want to take the starvation cure for COVID-19 and will need to get back to work sooner rather than later. Government assistance will not be enough, and desperate people will do desperate things.

With over a half million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, one would think that the international medical community might have a more nuanced strategy than simply everyone stay home. Here in Minnesota, the hot spot is Hennepin County and the immediately adjacent counties. Why hasn’t this area been locked down? No travel in or out except for essential services. The same goes for other hot spots around the country. New York City and the surrounding area account for 44,635 of the 97,028 confirmed cases in the U.S. and people are still traveling in and out of New York City. If self- quarantine is such a great strategy why not go all the way in those densely populated urban areas? Just wondering.

Previous Posts

March 24 – Sebeka

As you all probably know, the COVID-19 numbers are up worldwide (414,277 confirmed, 18,557 dead, 107,806 recoveries), up in the United States (51,542, 674 dead) and up in Minnesota (262, 1 dead). Also from the Minnesota Health Department. Approximately 5,812 completed tests have been submitted to the MDH Public Health Lab. Only 21 cases have required hospitalization with 15 still in the hospital as of today. In addition, 88 patients no longer need to be isolated.

I hate posting these numbers, but they are really the closest thing to real information out there. It’s a little depressing that there’s so little positive news on the medical front, but I guess that is to be expected for a novel disease with no known immunity, no vaccine, no COVID-19 specific treatment regimen. In this case, no medical news might really be good news because it seems that folks are so desperate for a resolution that any little factoid that sounds vaguely positive suddenly becomes gospel truth with the potential to make things worse. Remember when the younger set was ready to party because COVID-19 was an old folks disease – until they started getting sick. Then there were the anti-malarial drugs that might be of use in treating COVID-19. Those drugs are suddenly in short supply even though there is no medical evidence that shows them to be effective, which hurts people who actually need them. Now, there are a lot of people who believe that after our 15 days of “flattening the curve” life will return to normal. It won’t. The United States has shown no signs of reaching a peak in terms of disease spread, so while the curve might be flattened, it also might not be enough to prevent hospitalizations from out-pacing medical supplies, which is the real reason that health experts want to flatten the curve in the first place. New York City will probably reach that point in days, not weeks because it’s real hard to flatten the curve in a city of 9 million without real stringent measures.

So I guess I’ll continue with my own social distancing routine and hope that the medical experts can come up with some useful recommendations besides staying home and washing our hands because I have a feeling that most people are not going to be able hunker down for months.

 

March 22 – Fortress of Solitude

Well, we have completed one week of self-imposed isolation and the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in the United States. Of course, public health experts said the situation could become worse before it gets better, so I guess we’ll have to see where we are after another week.

As I write on Sunday evening, the worldwide count is up tom 335,957 confirmed, with 14,632 deaths and 97,881 recoveries.. U.S. numbers are up to 33,276 with 417 deaths and 178 recoveries. The U.S. epicenter is definitely New York with 15,793 confirmed cases and 117 deaths.

That’s where we should direct our prayers. The disease is loose in New York City, a metropolis of about 9 million people all packed into a relatively small area. Drastic action is called for, but what kind and how drastic? In Wuhan, China, a city of 11 million, the Chinese government locked down the city and even went so far as to weld locks shut to keep infected individuals in their homes. Apparently it worked because China has had no new cases for several days. I don’t think there will be any welding in NYC, but something needs to be done to keep the disease from exploding down the east coast more than it already has.

By contrast, Minnesota  is still in decent shape with just 169 confirmed cases spread over 28 counties, including Cass County with one confirmed case. Still only one death in Minnesota, but so far no confirmed recoveries.

It appears that government at all levels are beginning to coordinate their efforts effectively and that’s encouraging. Even more encouraging is the number of private companies who have volunteered to be a part of the virus battle in the U.S. I’m wondering when the big media companies will do the same. They certainly didn’t have a problem helping the U.S. government get into shooting wars in the Middle East. Remember the “embedded reporters” in Irag. Maybe the media could do that again in the context of the war against COVID -19. Instead of broadcasting from their plush apartments, they could embed with the emergency response teams out in the field or help the numerous groups of private citizens trying to help their communities. I’d like to see that, but I don’t expect that I will.

 

March 21 – Fortress of Solitude

Hi all. I’m writing this post on Saturday evening from home.

You have probably heard the good news by now. A confirmed instance in Wadena County that was reported a coupled of days ago turned out to be a mistake. That means that the local readership areas of the Review Messenger, Northwoods Press and Cass Lake Times are still free of COVID-19. Please take a moment to give thanks.

Minnesota has 138 confirmed cases with one death. Hennepin County is the hotspot with 52 confirmed cases. Other affected counties include: Anoka (5), Benton (1), Blue Earth (3), Carver (3), Chisago (1), Clay (1), Dakota (7), Dodge (1), Fillmore (2), Jackson (1), Martin (5), Mower (3), Nicollet (2), Olmsted (12), Ramsey (17), Renville (1), Rice (1), Scott (2), Stearns (4), Waseca (1), Washington (4) and Wright (3).

There have been 4,090 tests at the MDH Public Health Lab.

Nationwide, the numbers are way up as testing ramps up. The U.S total is up to 25,493 confirmed cases with New York accounting for 11,710 of that total. Washington state is next closest with 1,793. The United States is trailing China (81,305) and Italy (53,578). According to the federal Corona virus task force, around 200,000 people have been tested, although not all the results are in yet. Dr. Anthony Fauci noted that not everyone needs to be tested. Health officials will continue to prioritize who gets tested in order to conserve protective gear. That might change after U.S. industry fully ramps up production.

Worldwide, there have been 304,544 confirmed cases of CVID-19 with 12,974 deaths. On the bright side, there have been 91,679 recoveries. What we don’t know is whether people who have recovered have acquired any immunity to the virus or can they be can  re-infected.

Those are the numbers today. I don’t have a lot of other thoughts at the moment. I will say that all of us appear to be growing up a little bit. Who knew that trying to avoid becoming a disease vector could be such a unifying experience. When it’s all over, it just might be great to be an American again.

Until next time, keep washing those hands.

March 19, 10:45 a.m.
SEBEKA, MN –

Welcome to Lake & Pine Publications, the online home of the Review Messenger, Northwoods Press and Cass Lake Times.

As I begin what will likely be a semi-regular online blog detailing my state of being during the COVID-19 hysteria, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our local readership areas of Menahga, Sebeka, Nevis, Cass Lake and the surrounding areas stands at zero, at least according to the Minnesoa Department of Health. At the moment, there are 77 confirmed cases in Minnesota spread over the following counties: Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Martin, Nicollet, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Scott, Stearns, Waseca, Washington and Wright, all of which are well south of our local communities.

I feel good about that even though I know that it could change at anytime. It’s always good to be grateful for small blessings.

And I guess I spoke too soon. I looked at the Department of Health website at noon and discovered there is now one confirmed case in Wadena County. There are not a lot of details to be had officially just yet so it’s too soon to be worried, but a little more caution is certainly warranted since there are bound to be more cases. In any case there are now 78 cases in Minnesota.

It’s a lot worse elsewhere in the United States, which now (2:20 p.m.) stands at 11,238 cases behind China (81,155 confirmed), Italy (41,035), Iran (18,407), Spain (17,395), and Germany (14,481). New York state is the U.S. epicenter with 4,158 confirmed, followed by Washington state with 1,187.

I’m getting these numbers from Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, which is hosting a regularly updated interactive map. It’s more reliable than any of the government websites, who generally don’t provide updates after 4 p.m. and nothing on the weekend.

Good information is important, so feel free to ignore the media spokesmodels and their so-called “medical contributors.” Most of it is pure click-bait. Unless the news can tell you the who-what-when-where-why of the matter with attributed sources, it’s near useless. Unless it’s a print news product, then there is a creative use for the paper in times of shortage.

I prefer real sources of medical information like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He has seen it all in terms of infectious disease: AIDS, anthrax, swine flu, Ebola and, now, a coronavirus pandemic. He has stated in press conferences that he thinks all the new public measures to reduce the spread are having an effect. How much is hard to say at this point. “It’s not able to be measured precisely, because you have two things going on at the same time. You have an escalation of the infections, and you have all of the things we’ve been talking about and doing over the past few days that are aimed at blunting that, but when you have these two dynamic things going on at the same time, you can’t quantitatively say how much it’s having an effect.”

In a week, or maybe two, we should know more. I’ll try to keep you posted.

Currently, all three of our newspapers are trying to keep at least some office hours, but we are also all set to work from home and some of our staff is already doing so. It might pay to give us a call before you make a trip to the office: Sebeka (218-837-5558), Menahga (218-564-4559), Nevis (218-652-3475), Cass Lake (218-335-2290 or 218-689-7290).

Subscriptions, both online and print, can be purchases on this website. You can also add an online option to your existing print subscription for $10. To exercise that option, call 218-837-5558.

Latest Minnesota update (3:35 p.m.)

  • Total of 89 confirmed cases in Minnesota.
  • Since the start of the outbreak, seven COVID-19 patients in Minnesota have been hospitalized.
    • Four patients currently hospitalized.
    • Most patients are recovering at home.
  • Age range of cases: 17 years to 94 years; median age of 49.
  • This total of 89 reflects only the results from the MDH testing program. We believe there are more cases in Minnesota, and that the virus is circulating in communities. It is important for everyone to follow advice on community mitigation and social distancing to help us flatten the case curve.
  • 405 tested March 18
  • MDH has tested more than 3,100 total patients since PHL testing started March 1.

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