Minnesota’s Covid-19 numbers started improving before Gov. Walz’s latest shutdown

Last Friday, Minnesota’s business owners, suffering under Gov. Tim Walz’s latest shutdowns, were expecting to find out whether these shutdowns would be extended beyond December 18th. Instead, they were told that the Governor needed more time to make his mind up and that the decision was postponed until Wednesday. Only someone with no commercial experience whatsoever could expect small businesses to function with two days notice of major changes like this.

The shutdowns should end on Friday. Gov. Walz often claims to be following ‘the science’ and/or ‘the data’, but this is not true. The data does not support closing Minnesota’s bars and restaurants; it does not support banning family get-togethers; it does not support closing the state’s gyms; and it does not support closing Minnesota’s movie theaters.

In fact, the Department of Health‘s own data calls into question whether the latest shutdown and the costs it has incurred have had any impact on the spread of Covid-19 in Minnesota.

As Figure 1 shows, both newly diagnosed cases and the ratio of tests turning up new cases have fallen recently. But, in both cases, the fall began before Gov. Walz’s new restrictions began on November 20th. New cases peaked at an average of 6,823 for the seven days up to and including November 11th and the ratio of tests returning positive results peaked at 18.4% on November 10th.

Figure 1: New cases of Covid-19 and ratio of tests positive in Minnesota, seven-day moving average

Source: Department of Health

Figure 1 shows us that the average number of new cases began climbing in mid-September and the positivity ratio from early October. You might ask why, then, Gov. Walz waited until mid-November to implement his latest shutdowns.

Whatever the reason, this second surge of cases peaked and began falling before the Governor’s latest round of shutdowns began. When Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said on Friday that “The good news is that over the last couple weeks, we have seen a leveling off…I think that’s because our governor put a 4-week pause into effect…”, the data just doesn’t support this.

It is possible, of course, that this fall would have been less precipitous without the shutdowns. To that, I’d ask: What data are you basing that on? As it stands the horrible truth could well be that all of the pain caused by these latest shutdowns was for nothing.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.