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fter reading the implications of Gov. Tim Walz’s order regarding COVID-19, I was frustrated. After looking at Minnesota’s statistics and comparing them to other states and other countries, I don’t know what to think.

Walz’s order allows restaurants to reopen with outdoor seating on June 1 but does not allow for a whole host of other things. From the perspective of the restaurant I work at, it’s going to be an inconvenient pain in the neck. We have a half-dozen outdoor tables at most. With an expected flurry of customers who want to patronize, the key person will be the “host” — otherwise known as the person who has to give bad news like, “It will only be another hour wait.” It is unlikely the order will allow our owner to bring all the servers back, or give them as many tables as previously.

I know that hair stylists, movie theater owners, church members and many others are disappointed too. Especially since we can drive 30 miles to Wahpeton and do anything we want.

After reading about the order, I wanted to at least get a fresh look at the data, to see what Walz is basing his decisions on. The first case was reported in Minnesota in early March, and the number of new daily cases grew to 786 on May 7. There was a slight dip, with only 423 new cases on May 13, and then another peak at 805 cases on May 15, followed by a dropoff to 641 cases on Wednesday.

In states such as New York, New Jersey and Louisiana, where COVID-19 hit earlier, the graph of new cases has a similar trend — exponential growth to a peak, slight dip, second peak, in some cases a second dip and third peak, and then a drop-off. By June 1, we are likely to know for sure whether the drop off Minnesota has experienced this last week continued, or another peak hit.

In other words, we are not out of the woods yet. If that’s the case, I’m having a hard time determining why Walz made the announcement this week, other than to get people off his back. Why not just wait another week, analyze the new data, and make a call at that point?

This is a fluid situation, and the outspoken people who don’t understand that are more than likely deliberately not understanding it to meet their own agenda.

The other question I have is, in other states, how effective has the shutdown of all things entertaining helped prevent the spread? Surely, there must be a per-capita analysis comparing COVID-19 cases in states which had extreme restrictions and those who had relatively few. It could be that all these restrictions didn’t do much, because we all ended up going to the grocery store and spread the virus anyway. Or maybe we have prevented a black plague situation, when 200 million people died between 1347 and 1351.

I am not a politician. I am a science educator. To use the scientific method, one must make observations, create a hypothesis, make a prediction, collect data, and analyze the data to see if your prediction came true. The idea then, is to use that hypothesis to make other predictions.

The scientists leading the way on COVID-19 essentially predicted that, left unchecked, the virus would spread exponentially through the population, but if we did social distancing and all that entails, it would spread more slowly, thus giving hospitals a more manageable number of cases.

We in Minnesota have the benefit of being a bit of a late comer compared to other states and countries. We can use the information to benefit our own situation on COVID-19.

The problem is, we are not that much farther behind. We can use the data, but we have to wait for it, probably a couple of weeks.

Walz can always change his order. Believe me, restaurant owners and others would be happy to modify their strategies if he did. I implore the governor to, in this fluid situation, appear to be a bit flip-floppy on his order if necessary.

It’s not OK for a politician to be a flip-flopper if the facts have remained the same. It is OK if the situation changes. 

So let’s give Walz a break and allow him to be a flip-flopper on COVID-19. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. Would you?

 

Joel Myhre is a Fergus Falls resident.

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