Gov. Walz Faces Backlash Over Controversial COVID-19 Model


Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called a press conference Friday afternoon to discuss the modeling the state is using in its coronavirus response, but faced harsh criticism for initially closing the briefing to the public.

The model in question, developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, predicts that the state will have 22,000 deaths over the course of the pandemic, according a slideshow from the press briefing posted online. That prediction takes into account the governor’s stay-at-home order, which was extended until May 4.

However, the popular model developed by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicts that Minnesota will have just 442 deaths over the next four months.

One of the main differences between the two forecasts is that the Minnesota model tracks the full course of the pandemic while the IHME model looks only at the next four months.

According to MPR data journalist David Montgomery, the Minnesota Department of Health won’t release the “model interface and code” until “late April.”

“Why would it take any time whatsoever to release code?” some asked.

Matt Dean, a former Republican state representative, wondered why Minnesota was preparing for a mid-July peak when “everyone else in the country is planning for this Monday.”

“This model is created with back of the napkin math. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t have closed the transparency briefing down to press only,” he wrote on Twitter. “They are promising to release the math in a few weeks. B (as in B) S (as in S).”

State Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) said she was worried about the governor “holding a press conference for media only and not live-streaming his secret modeling numbers.”

She also claimed that Senate Republicans were excluded from listening in on the governor’s noon press briefing, but it was later clarified that only the four legislative caucus leaders were invited to participate in the call.

“Again, why is Gov. Walz being so secretive? A secret press conference to reveal his secret modeling numbers (that make no sense) and then not answering questions. The public demands transparency and answers,” she wrote on Twitter.

John Rouleau, executive director of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, called it a “colossal misstep” to close the briefing to “press only as people get antsy.”

“After streaming daily briefings regularly for the past month, I hope they have a good answer as to why this was closed and not streamed,” he said.

Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson, who has gained attention for his skepticism of coronavirus modeling, pointed out that the Minnesota model projects “almost no difference in deaths” among four of the scenarios investigated.

“So (even if the 22,000 figure is right, and it clearly isn’t) what, exactly, is the point?” he added.

The Department of Health eventually posted a recording of the briefing on YouTube, but the negative reactions continued to roll in throughout the afternoon.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tim Walz” by Tim Walz. 









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One Thought to “Gov. Walz Faces Backlash Over Controversial COVID-19 Model”

  1. 83ragtop50

    Model, model on the wall. Tell us the biggest lies of all.