The media reporting of Minnesota’s COVID-19 outbreak is divorced from reality

There was good news in Minnesota’s fight against Covid-19 today. The Department of Health announced six new deaths from Covid-19 and, while each one of these is a tragedy, that number does represent the 21st day of single-digit deaths out of the last 23 days. As Figure 1 shows, the seven day moving average of daily deaths stands at 4.7, up from 4.3 yesterday, but still lower than at any point between April 10th and July 11th.

Figure 1: Seven day moving average of Covid-19 deaths

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

There was positive news on hospitalizations also. The number of Minnesotans in intensive care (ICU) fell to 107, the lowest since April 23rd, as Figure 2 shows. The total number of hospitalizations – 236 – is now lower than at any time between April 19th and July 10th.

Figure 2: Hospitalizations for Covid-19

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

How did Minnesota’s media break this positive news on Twitter?

The positive news on deaths wasn’t mentioned. The positive news on hospitalizations was mentioned by the Star Tribune and Kare 11, but both accompanied it with a warning that hospitalizations might rise again (honorable mentions go to WCCO and KSTP).

Indeed they might. Or they might not. As I wrote last week:

In April, the surge in Covid-19 cases was closely followed by a surge in Covid-19 deaths. By contrast, the surge in Covid-19 cases since mid-June has been accompanied by a continued fall in Covid-19 deaths. Those who say ‘Just you wait’ and say that the current surge in cases means that another surge in deaths is just around the corner need to explain why the lag between the surge in cases and the surge in deaths is so much greater now than it was in April.

They also need to explain just how long, exactly, they expect this lag to be.

A more likely scenario is that the current surge in cases is composed mostly of younger people who are less affected by the disease.

But I guess that doesn’t get clicks.

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