Parson lashes out after report reveals his office buried study showing masks work | State News

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday that a news article reporting his office buried a study showing mask work was “willfully misleading.”

Parson released a statement via social media Thursday night, a day after the story was published by the Missouri Independent.

The governor said reporter Rudi Keller “handpicked information from a Sunshine request and then took the data out of context to fit his story.”

Parson also personally attacked Keller, calling him a “political blogger” posing as a journalist. According to Keller’s biography, he’s been a journalist for 30 years – 22 of which were spent covering Missouri government and politics – and was editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune.

It joined the Missouri Independent online when it launched over a year ago as the 19th outlet for States Newsroom, a national nonprofit funded by grants and donations.

Keller wrote the Wednesday article with two data reporters from The Documenting COVID-19 Project, which is supported by the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia University.

The Missouri Independent worked with The Documenting COVID-19 project to obtain government records and emails via a Sunshine Law request.

The title of the article read: “The Missouri Department of Health Found Mask Warrants to Work, But Did Not Make the Results Public.” “

Reporters found that Gov. Mike Parson’s office had requested an analysis on the effectiveness of mask warrants. The request was made in a Nov. 1 email from Alex Tuttle, Parson’s liaison with the health department.

“Can you provide examples of local mandates and the impact of those mandates on the spread of COVID in these areas? Tuttle wrote.

The ministry completed the analysis two days later.

It consists of two graphs: one that compares infection rates in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kansas City, and Jackson County with the rest of the state, and another that compares death rates.

All four jurisdictions imposed mask warrants in late July and early August during a spate of COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant.

The comparison showed that infection rates in “masked” jurisdictions were higher than in the rest of the state in the six weeks leading up to the emergence of the delta variant. But then that changed.

Data shows that, from late April to late October, jurisdictions with mask warrants experienced an average of 15.8 cases per day per 100,000 population, compared to 21.7 cases per day per 100,000 population in “no” communities. masked ”.

The scan was carried out by Nathan Koffarnous, deputy bureau chief in DHSS’s Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Office, according to the emails. Koffarnous sent the charts on Nov. 3 to the new state health director Donald Kauerauf with the caveat: “Please note that there are many outside factors that we cannot explain here. “

Kauerauf responded that he agreed “there are” a lot “of variables that must be taken into account before one can definitively assess the impact of wearing a mask” during the delta wave.

“However, I think we can say with great confidence, looking at the public health literature, and then looking at the results of your study, that communities where masks were needed had a lower positivity rate per 100,000 and lower death rates, ”Kauerauf wrote.

“For the purposes of the inquiry I received, that answers the question,” the director also wrote.

Kauerauf immediately passed the maps and his conclusion to Tuttle in the governor’s office.

The analysis was never included in material prepared by the health ministry for cabinet meetings, the Independent reported. Neither the Department of Health nor Parson’s office responded to requests for comment from the news agency asking why the report was not shared publicly.

Parson said he was against mask warrants, which he reiterated on Thursday: “If you want to wear a mask, wear one. However, I do not support government-issued mask warrants that violate our personal freedoms. “

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sued public schools in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kansas City, Jackson County and Columbia over their mask warrants, saying they do not are “not backed by data or science”.

In Parson’s response to The Independent’s story, he maintained: “There is no definitive evidence that the warrants have only saved lives and prevented COVID-19 infections in the largest cities. from Missouri. “

The governor said emails between his office and the health ministry noted that the mask’s mandate analysis did not take into account variables such as access to health care, testing rates and vaccination rates. between jurisdictions.

Parson said these variables “were excluded from the article.” The article, however, said health services data alone cannot explain the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of mask warrants, without a more comprehensive analysis of immunization rates and behavior.

The article also quoted a spokesperson for Schmitt’s office questioning the results of the health department’s analysis.

Parson insisted his office has been transparent with the data and that the health department’s analysis was based on case rate data that is publicly available on the public COVID-19 data website. state for over a year.

“This type of ‘so called’ reporting is unethical and must stop because it misleads the public and poses a threat to the credibility of our institutions,” Parson said.

In a request for a response to Parson’s attacks on history and the reporter, Missouri Freelance Editor Jason Hancock said in an email: “We asked the governor’s office for comment on Tuesday afternoon. . We did it again on Wednesday, a few hours before we published our story. The governor has had ample opportunity to respond. We maintain our relationship.

Enbal Shacham, a professor and researcher at the College of Public Health and Social Justice at St. Louis University, said that although the health department’s analysis did not take into account other variables such as vaccination rates , the results are valid because the analysis was performed when infection rates were high statewide.

“I think the conclusion is still the same,” Shacham said. “It wouldn’t compromise the results. “

Last year, before vaccines were made available, Shacham published a study using the exact same comparison of the case rate among counties in the St. Louis area that had and did not have a mask warrant.

She and her colleagues have shown that the July 2020 mask warrants in St. Louis and St. Louis County quickly and significantly slowed infection rates. After three weeks, the average daily growth rate of coronavirus cases was 44% lower than in Franklin, St. Charles and Jefferson counties without the policy. And after 12 weeks, it was still 40% lower. The trend continued when they last looked at rates in January, she said.

His study has been submitted for publication in an academic journal and is under review.

Shacham said the research involving the mask warrant research is not perfect, but the results are informative.

“It’s all a bit messy, so when you compare real life politics and its impact, it’s the best we’ve got, and I think it’s pretty accurate,” she said. “So these findings are not used to inform policy at the state level is disheartening. “

Amanda J. Marsh