A whistleblower has leaked an email exchange dating to October 2020, in which the Chief of Staff to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz tells the state’s Department of Health that the Department’s numbers on how covid was spreading were “less useful than what I expected” because “these numbers are small.” The Commissioner of Health said, in turn, that “people look at the primary case numbers and think those are small impacts that don’t justify the dial backs we propose.” She urges her staff to engage in “creative thinking.”
LEAKED! Email from last fall shows Walz chief of staff scheming with Malcolm to find ways to better sell COVID fear because numbers are too small.
— MN Up North Lake Guy (@MNUpNorthLakeG1) November 11, 2021
As I understand it, what is happening here is that the governor wanted to order restrictions on “social gatherings, weddings, funerals,” but the Department of Health’s data on origin of covid infections showed such a small number coming from those events that people wouldn’t buy the governor’s proposed shutdown. So the Department of Health was encouraged to calculate second and third generation infections on into the future–“generations of transmission”–to make the numbers look bigger.
On November 10, 2020, Governor Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-96, titled “Restricting Social Gatherings, Celebrations, and the Hours and Operations of Bars, Restaurants, and Venues to Prevent Further Spread of COVID-19.” This is the order for which the governor wanted the Department of Health to dummy up more compelling data. The order recites:
Due to careful contact tracing and continuous research, we now have a far greater understanding of the ways that the pandemic spreads. Greater knowledge allows us to be more surgical in our approach to mitigation, especially when faced with the current surges. The present data points to social gatherings (including friends and family gatherings at private homes), celebrations, and bars and restaurants as the most significant source of COVID-19 spread in the state.
This was never true, and there were never any strong data to support the claim.
I recognize and regret that this Order will affect the bottom line of businesses that have already borne a great deal of hardship due to this pandemic. With the holiday season approaching, these changes will also unfortunately affect family gatherings, and may require Minnesotans to rely on virtual and remote options to continue their holiday traditions. But as the Task Force explained, we must act quickly and implement calculated and aggressive measures.
These leaked emails provide a small window into a phenomenon that we have seen over the last year and a half at the federal level and in many states: politicians who want to exert ever-greater control over our lives have consistently misrepresented and exaggerated data relating to covid in order to instill fear and to justify harsh measures that have damaged the quality of life of many millions of Americans. There is little or no evidence that extreme covid shutdowns did any material good, but we know they did a great deal of harm. Someday, perhaps there will be an accounting for the endemic dishonesty that lay behind them.