Daily Reformer: The good Dr. Jensen is back at it

State Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, appeared on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show on April 8.

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Gov. Tim Walz has news today on the stay-at-home order at 2 p.m. He’s expected to continue the order with a slight turn of “the dial.” That means bars, restaurants and events will still be shuttered. (See this helpful graphic on the dial turning.) Republicans will turn up the political heat. Let’s see what happens with Minnesota numbers given a huge increase in testing. And let’s see what happens in states that are “reopening.”   

Today in the Reformer Max Nesterak has the story of a janitor who was also a labor organizer who helped negotiate the janitors’ recent contract and died of COVID-19. This story has really resonated online and it’s not hard to understand why. 

Rilyn Eischens noted Wednesday that Minnesota State rather off-handedly said one of the campuses would lose a bunch of academic majors and 10% of its workforce, but they didn’t specify which one. It’s Moorhead, she reports. Bear in mind: The administration says these cuts are not coronavirus related, which means the campuses problems could deepen. 

Rilyn’s daily data tracker, which notes a lot of new cases because a lot of new testing. 

The good doctor on the TV and Interwebs, again

After our profile of Sen. Scott Jensen highlighted his trajectory as an emerging celebrity on the right, the Star Tribune reported Jensen was frustrated that his concerns about CDC guidance on cause of death with respect to COVID-19 were being misused by wild conspiracy theorists. The Chaska Republican and physician said he was only raising legitimate questions and did not like to see them turned into conspiracy theories by the likes of InfoWars about the government gaming coronavirus death data to control the population and hurt President Donald Trump.  

It was a little hard to take in the first place. After all, when asked why the CDC might publish guidelines that he said were inappropriately nudging medical examiners into ruling coronavirus cause of death without proper evidence, Jensen once replied, “Well, fear is a great way to control people, and I worry about that.” True enough, but he sounds like someone who is at least tin foil hat curious.  

The Strib piece ended with this Jensen quote: “I don’t want my videos or my comments weaponized, but I don’t know in this day and age what you can do to stop that.”

Here’s what you can do, Dr. Jensen: Stop appearing on programs of charlatans. 

For instance, on April 24, he appeared on a Facebook Live program called The Highwire with Del Bigtree

The what? Del Bigtree is a celebrity in anti-vaxx circles. He’s described in a Daily Beast story about coronavirus and the anti-vaxx movement thusly: 

Del Bigtree, CEO of the anti-vaccination group Informed Consent Action Network, told The Daily Beast he had grave concerns about the coronavirus vaccine process. ‘It’s one of the most dangerous things we can think of, injecting people with products where the science was rushed,’ he said. Bigtree, who has no medical training, said if a vaccine proves safe, then it should be ‘made available’ to high-risk individuals, but that everyone else should be permitted to ‘develop natural, stronger, more thorough herd immunity’ to coronavirus without a vaccine. 

Raise your hand if you want to forego taking a coronavirus vaccine in favor of ‘natural, stronger, more thorough herd immunity’? Especially if you’re over 60? 

The Guardian reports that Bigtree “has put together an hour-long presentation – still available on Facebook and YouTube – that argues that COVID-19 is a set-up by the pharmaceutical industry to enrich itself.” 

Jensen also appeared on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox (again) this week in which they trashed public health officials’ COVID-19’s cause of death rulings, insinuating a lot of coronavirus deaths are actually flu deaths. Here’s how Ingraham closed out the interview: 

“Where are the journalists doing this work, why aren’t they setting the context for this response and the continuing response of shutdown, because they want to keep this thing shut down, and I think a lot of it is to hurt Trump.”

The next time we hear Jensen complain that his reasonable concerns about COVID-19 death statistics are being misused by charlatans and cranks, just think of the prosecutor in Goodfellas talking to the wife of coke dealer Henry Hill: “You don’t know anything? Come on. Don’t give me the babe in the woods routine, Karen. I’ve heard those tapes.”

Here’s thorough reporting from FactCheck.org on Jensen’s previous contention that hospitals might be led by financial incentives to overcount coronavirus cases. Jensen hedges and concedes that undercounting could also be a problem. 

This is an appropriate moment to acknowledge I made a dumb error Wednesday. I questioned why a press conference Walz and Rep. Collin Peterson held for hog producers didn’t include workers. Of course, hog producers are farmers. Hog processors are meatpacking plants that have been in the news so much lately. My point is the same: That Walz needs to stand by those workers on the line at JBS, but I regret the error. 

Good segue: Reporter Ricardo Lopez tells me Walz will meet Friday with workers in Worthington workers and separately with the union as well. Ricardo reported Wednesday that Worthington activists criticized the Walz/Peterson press conference noted above for not including JBS plant workers. 

Biden

This week we’ve discussed new details of Tara Reade’s 1990s allegation of sexual assault against Joe Biden, including a neighbor who says Reade told her about the incident a couple of years later. Here’s a lengthy and detailed piece from a former federal prosecutor on his doubts about the allegation.  

The COVID tracker you should actually pay attention to

Regarding undercounting COVID-19 deaths, the Economist has a project tracking excess deaths — meaning mortality above what one would expect in a normal year. 

Sadness

The Strib reports the Saint Paul ice cream shop Izzy’s is closing. I once lived in a town where people used to wait in line to get into sweaty, debaucherous nightclubs with names like Pure. I moved to a place where people waited in line to get into Izzy’s and the Grand Ole Creamery. In time, I found the change comforting and wholesome. The virus has delivered illness and death and the loss of people’s livelihoods like those who work at Izzy’s and the owners. (The Minneapolis operation will remain open.) Those effects should not be minimized. But the virus has taken something else from us, if only temporarily. It’s intangible but no less real — that feeling when you’re standing outside on a summer night, chatting up other people in line waiting for your Izzy’s, and there’s no other place you’d rather be.  

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Have a great day all. 

J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.