What do the numbers tell us about Covid-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota?

Back in September, I wrote that the share of the state’s ICU beds in use is the correct benchmark for Gov. Walz’ Covid-19 emergency measures. That was made more difficult on September 23rd when it emerged that Minnesota’s Department of Health was going to stop reporting the number of people in hospital with Covid-19. Fortunately, the resulting outcry caused Minnesota’s Department of Health to reconsider, and they are, once again, reporting the numbers of Minnesotans in hospital – ICU and non-ICU – with Covid-19.

The results are shown in Figure 1. An important point to note about the data, is that the numbers the Department of Health gives now for ICU and non-ICU hospitalizations for the period before September 23rd are different to the numbers they were giving then: the ICU numbers are higher, the non-ICU numbers are lower. To mark that the numbers are different, I’ve retained the old numbers for the period before September 23rd and show the new numbers in different colors.

Figure 1: Covid-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

The numbers show two things. First, there has been a pronounced spike in non-ICU Covid-19 hospitalizations since around them time of September 23rd. Second, there has not – yet – been a corresponding surge in ICU hospitalizations. This might reflect that fact that, as we have learned more about this virus, we have learned ways to treat it short of ICU care. Medical knowledge, after all, like all scientific knowledge, should be changing all the time to take account of new information. If it isn’t, you’ve got stagnation, which is never a good place to be.

There is a further point to note from this data. For all the surging in non-ICU hospitalizations – to a high of 429 on October 20th and 21st – they still only account for about 6.2% of total non-ICU hospitalizations in the state – about 6,500.

If the share of Minnesota’s ICU beds in use is the correct benchmark for Gov. Walz’ Covid-19 emergency measures, the state’s numbers show that, at present, we don’t need to panic.

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