Minnesota health officials explain models used to guide state response to COVID-19

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Friday, Minnesotans received more information on how the state health department gets its models of COVID-19’s effect on the state.

The models are used to make critical decisions such as the ‘stay at home’ order.

The Minnesota model estimates, with some uncertainty, the number of daily COVID-19 cases, how many people are in intensive care units (ICU) and how many people die from COVID-19 in the state. The model predicts approximately when the most people will get COVID-19 (the peak of the pandemic), how many people that will be, and when the most people will need ICU care than the number of ICU beds that are available.

According to the model released Friday, the information suggests that:

  • The pandemic is expected to have a long-term impact on Minnesotans because of how easily the virus spreads and how fatal it is
  • Social distancing policies and guidelines will lead to a later peak of cases, hospitalizations and ICU care.
  • Reducing the rate of infection enough to "flatten the curve" – to spread out the number of cases over a longer period of time – requires long-term social distancing measures, but that would also make the pandemic last longer.

Gov. Tim Walz has made it clear to Minnesotans he is using models and other data when he makes those decisions.

He admitted even he is tired and frustrated by these orders but that they could mean life or death.

"My heart breaks for people worried about their economic well-being," Walz said during a conference call Thursday. "But you can’t get frustrated go on a hunch and throw caution to the wind and pretend like our neighbors’ lives are somehow disposable. This is what health experts are telling me. This is what these non-partisan experts are gathered around and yes, there are dissenting opinions on how we go about things. There are dissenting opinions that I was too lax in allowing some of these things to come back open."

COVID-19 Daily Briefing: State officials discuss returning Minnesotans to work, length of ‘stay at home’ orders

Thursday, Walz and Minnesota Department of Health leaders said they expect the virus to peak in July and the ‘stay at home’ extension will give them more time to prepare.

COVID-19 Daily Briefing: Extended ‘stay at home’ order aims to buy preparation time ahead of state’s peak

According to health officials, it shows that up to 20,000 Minnesotans could die of COVID-19 even with social distancing measures.

Other models project that number to be in the hundreds.

In the meantime, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka criticized the ‘stay at home’ order extension.

On Twitter, Gazelka said, in part, "We have to get on with our lives."

Gazelka also questioned projections that Minnesota will need the same number of ICU beds as New York City.

Walz stated he planned to be more transparent with these models going forward and state health officials explained the models in more detail Friday morning.

Stay with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.com for the latest updates.

KSTP’s complete COVID-19 coverage