By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

On March 20, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order requiring residents to stay at home in response to COVID-19. With sparse and inconsistent data to go on, the state acted in an abundance of caution. And facing fear and uncertainty, the general public accepted shutdown orders that have resulted in an economic collapse.

But today, the situation is far different. We now have far more data about the crisis and yet the state’s overall shutdown strategy hasn’t materially changed.

For one, the data tells us who’s most at risk from COVID-19, and it’s not the general public. It’s overwhelmingly those with preexisting conditions, especially the elderly. They’re the ones that need to be far better protected and supported in any self-isolation efforts.

We’ve also learned that Illinois had more than enough health care resources to meet our peak needs. Overall beds, ICU beds and ventilators are all in excess capacity.

And that means the general public should phase back into work immediately, while there’s still work to be had. The economic data shows how quickly the current lockdown is killing jobs and livelihoods. Economic recession and depressions cause deaths of their own.

Gov. Pritzker has seemingly ignored all the above. In fact, he recently extended Illinois’ shutdown by another month – through May 30.

Here are seven common sense facts Illinoisans should know about the state’s COVID-19 situation:

1. It’s those with preexisting conditions, especially the elderly, that are most at risk.

Illinois’ death data for COVID-19 shows the elderly are most in danger.

Nearly 1,950 Illinoisans have died of the virus as of April 26th. Of those victims, 85 percent of them were age 60 or older.

The group most in danger from the virus, however, is even more narrow than that. The overwhelming majority of people who have been hospitalized or have died due to COVID-19 had other underlying conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and coronary disease – known as comorbidities.

Unfortunately, Illinois doesn’t release its preexisting condition or comorbidity numbers, so we look at other states and national data for estimates. A study published in a CDC report, for example, finds “that the majority of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 have preexisting conditions—about 90% of patients, or nearly all, had one or more underlying conditions.”

The state of New York publishes its comorbidity data daily. It shows that of the 16,966 deaths in New York as of April 25th, 89 percent had at least one comorbidity.

So we know with more precision today who is at risk: those with underlying medical conditions, especially the elderly. It’s not the public at large.

2. Nearly 35 percent of COVID-19 victims were retirement home residents.

The general public is even less at risk when you consider that nearly 35 percent of Illinois’ deaths came from retirement homes. A WBEZ analysis found that 625 of the state’s 1,795 deaths as of April 24 were nursing home residents.

The percentage is even higher elsewhere in the country. Massachusetts reports that half of all deaths were elderly in long-term care facilities. And worldwide, the London School of Economics reports that 40 to 60 percent of virus deaths in Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium have been linked to retirement homes.

When this crisis is finally over, we’ll look back at the failure to protect retirement homes as one of the bigger tragedies of COVID-19.

3. Younger Illinoisans make up just 6% of the state’s deaths.

Younger Illinoisans face a far lower risk than originally feared. That’s reflected in who has died so far. The deaths by age group for those Illinoisans younger than 50, as of April 26, was:

  • 2 residents under the age of 20;
  • 10 residents aged between the 20-29;
  • 31 residents aged between 30-39; and,
  • 73 residents aged between ages 40-49.

In all, younger Illinoisans make up just 6% of the state’s deaths. What we don’t know is how many of these younger Illinoisans had comorbidities – the state refuses to release the data. 

4. Large parts of Illinois are far less affected.

Continuing a one-size-fits-all shutdown policy for the entire state makes little sense after spending a full month getting the curve under control.

Cook and the collar counties have the vast majority of cases and deaths, while only a few of the outbreak “hotspots” are located downstate. Some of that difference is due to simple population density. Cook County has a population of over 5.2 million people and 3,200 residents per square mile.

In contrast, downstate places like Putnam County – which has no recorded cases of COVID-19 to date – has a total population of 6,000 people and just 34 residents per square mile.

Given what we know about the risk factors covered above, the rules for relaxing the shutdown should be far different for businesses in Putnam County vs. Cook County.

5. Illinois’ hospitals are far more prepared today.

Illinois’ outbreak appears to have peaked, and thankfully, the state never ran out of hospital beds, ICU beds or ventilators. In fact, Illinois continues to build an excess supply.

Take ventilators. Gov. Pritzker wanted to have as many as 7,000 ventilators ready for the expected peak in hospitalizations. Fortunately, Illinois never came close to that need as patients on machines peaked recently. On April 25th, the state only used 43 percent of its more than 3,300 ventilators. Nearly 1,900 machines were not being used.

Intensive care unit beds were yet another resource that projections warned Illinois could run short of. That never happened, either. Despite the growth in patients, Illinois has more ICU beds available today than it did on April 3rd when state reporting began.

The trajectory of total hospital beds has been largely the same. Despite concerns, Illinois never came close to a shortage of beds.

6. Soon nearly a million Illinoisans will be unemployed.

More than a month after this crisis began, we now know just how much damage the shutdown is causing to peoples’ lives and their livelihoods. After just five weeks, 26.5 million total Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, up from just 5.8 million from before the crisis began. 

In Illinois, a total of over 730,000 workers have filed for unemployment benefits since the middle of March, over 12 percent of the state’s workforce.

If Illinois ends up matching the St. Louis Fed’s unemployment predictions for the nation, 32 percent of Illinois’ workforce, or more than 2 million people, could end up unemployed.

Beyond workers, the shutdown is inflicting incalculable harm to small businesses and entrepreneurs. It could end up destroying an entire generation of risk-takers and job creators.

Yes, the federal government has passed several stimulus packages to help businesses survive, but all that funding is little more than a financial band-aid. The world’s most complex economic system is still crumbling and more and more vital linkages are destroyed every day.

7. Recessions and depressions cause deaths of their own.

Interwoven with economic decline are drug abuse, depression, domestic violence and deepening poverty that destroy families. Studies of past recessions show just how much suffering Americans will endure. 

“Job losses cause extreme suffering. Every 1 percent hike in the unemployment rate will likely produce a 3.3 percent increase in drug-overdose deaths and a 0.99 percent increase in suicides, according to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the medical journal Lancet…If unemployment hits 32 percent, some 77,000 Americans are likely to die from suicide and drug overdoses as a result of layoffs.”

Based on Illinois’ share of the nation’s population, the state could experience 3,000 additional drug-related deaths and suicides.

On top of that, there’s the damage and deaths due to additional alcohol abuse. An estimated 88,000 Americans already die from alcohol-related causes annually.

Domestic violence is also on the rise up as the stay-at-home orders continue. An NBC News report earlier this month reported that cities across the nation have seen upticks in domestic violence. Houston’s police experienced a 20 percent increase in calls in March, while Charlotte saw an increase of 18 percent over last year. Phoenix’s volumes are up 6 percent.

Expect all of the above to worsen if the country is plunged into an economic downturn rivaling the Great Depression

Common sense

For many ordinary Illinoisans, fear over the killer virus is now morphing into a fear of survival without a job or income. The health data from the past month bolsters their desire to get back to work, while worsening economic data supports their urgency to do so.

The deaths and despair that will ensue under a severe recession or depression should be a part of the science Gov. Pritzker says he’s using to make his health and economic decisions. So far, there’s not much evidence that they are part of his calculus.

The biggest issue in going back to work, of course, is how to protect those with underlying conditions, especially those in retirement homes and multi-generational households. Focus all the health and financial resources on them. Many will protect themselves via self-isolation, but many may need support depending on their health risk, income level, multi-generational homes, etc. And for all those who do return to work as the economy reopens, they have a special responsibility to those vulnerable populations.

Read more about the impact of COVID-19:

47 Comments
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Lancer
7 months ago

I quote: “Gov. Pritzker has seemingly ignored all the above. In fact, he recently extended Illinois’ shutdown by another month – through May 30.”
This is fake news. Per link: “Pritzker: Illinois stay-at-home order, school closures will be extended through April 30.” The May 30 claim is false.

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  Lancer

Illinois’ stay-at-home order will extend through May 30, require masks in public due to coronavirus

https://wgntv.com/news/coronavirus/pritzker-expected-to-extend-illinois-coronavirus-stay-at-home-order/

Lancer
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

Thanks debtsor!
I followed the link in the text above which didn’t say anything about May 30 and didn’t support the authors’ claim..
It is indeed May 30. I therefore retract my comment and its implications.

Kathy
7 months ago

Can the state or my employer force me to be tested for Codvi19 to return to work? Even if we don’t have the Virus?

Roger Moore
7 months ago

I want to hear some stats about how many have recovered. All you hear is how many cases, how many deaths and how many in the hospital. I can’t believe none has recovered.

michael marek
7 months ago

well done as usual

Being Had
7 months ago

There is a lot more to be developed, tested and proven. But, I think the virus will eventually be gotten under control. Sure, there are still questions about when and what it will take? In the US, and in the other countries that have been hit, residents hadn’t been exposed to this virus, and had not developed or built immunities to it. All seem to acknowledge that the healthcare system can’t be overwhelmed. Beyond that, there is a parting of ways about stay-at-home or social distancing. Some think that increasing isolation slows down the building of immunities among healthy people.… Read more »

7 months ago

RECALL THIS GOOF……….NEVER VOTED FOR HIM

Benicia
7 months ago

Three words you’ll never hear out of a pol like Pritzger: “I … am … wrong”

Susan
7 months ago

Antibody testing has nothing to do with implied immunity, but a huge relevance to determining what the statistical outcomes have actually been relative to the exposed population.
What is the science-based exit strategy?
(See analysis below for 25%exposure rate assumption).
If the plan is to stay shut down forever, let us know now.

Freddy
7 months ago
Reply to  Susan

Susan. Check out http://www.mercola.com and read Trending Now about Covid and low vitamin D levels. I have been saying this for years now that low Vitamin D3 levels is a reason for most of our health problems but Big Pharma never divulges any info on that. No money to be made on health but a fortune on sickness. Have you heard any info of Covid patients who died what their Vitamin D level was? Same for flu or cancer or heart disease.

Freddy
7 months ago
Reply to  Freddy

Click on sources Grass roots health April 9, 2020 for more detailed info on the article about Covid and low Vit D

Susan
7 months ago
Reply to  Freddy
Joe Blow
7 months ago

Pritzker is pure evil, he literally wants to destroy the lives of millions of residents of his state just to make sure Orange man doesn’t get re-elected… even though the state will vote for Biden anyway

RM
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

He wants to keep us alive, yeah …super evil.

Illinois Entrepreneur
7 months ago
Reply to  RM

There are about 1000 fatalities resulting from traffic crashes every year. Much of car travel is “non-essential.” So, do we restrict all road travel to essential activity only? No, of course we don’t. We have speed limits, seat belts and safety built-in to our cars to help mitigate (not eliminate) the probability of a fatality. But it still happens and we accept that, because we have enough data to manage it. The issue that many posters have on this site (including me) is that we don’t like Pritzker unilaterally making this decision for us, after we now have enough data… Read more »

Susan
7 months ago

By Pritzker’s logic, he is condemning many millions of Illinois medical professionals, police, and food supply chain workers to certain death. Analysis of statistics indicates we could handle maximum surge capacity now, if everyone were simultaneously exposed. llinois population 12.7 million. 22% over 60. Somewhere between 0 and 100% of population has been exposed. Of the population exposed, here are peak usages by COVID-19 patients of hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators: Hospital beds peak use 3600 (11000 open). ICU beds peak use 1250, (1000 open). Ventilators 800 (2300 open). That implies that of the total exposed population, assuming 100… Read more »

UnclePugsly
7 months ago
Reply to  Susan

Doctors surgical clinics are going broke because they cannot do anything!!!

Don Nemerov
7 months ago

Excellent analysis and summary

Mark Kruger
7 months ago

We need to remove this idiot of a governor, immediately!

7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Kruger

SHOULD NEVER HAVE VOTED FOR HIM!!

UnclePugsly
7 months ago

States that wait to reopen will lose business to other States that open, probably for good. Pritzker is putting Illinois into an extended downturn that it may NEVER recover from.

Plano, TX is the best place to locate a Corp HQ – Not a Democrat to be seen!

patcarnaroli
7 months ago

Does a list exist (or can Wirepoints compile?) showing which states are and are not publishing data on antibody test results, comorbidities among all populations who die from COVID-19 and other key statistics? I imagine this would make for interesting reading in news outlets around the country and certainly among Illinoisans.

ConcernedExpat
7 months ago

The Wuhan virus was not the black swan event. The unconstitutional lock downs were. Even if you were to believe that Pritzker acted in good faith on 3/20 when implemented (which I do believe he was), his rationale for continuing the lock downs is both deficient and most importantly ILLEGAL. His executive over reach needs to be curtailed.

We have a constitutional crisis in IL (see I can use the same phrase the left uses against 45)!

ConcernedExpat
7 months ago
Reply to  ConcernedExpat

If IL GOP is smart (I don’t think they capable of defeating the Dem machine), they need to be screaming to high heaven to force a vote on this matter to extend the lock down. That way voters can take names come November when there are 1 million unemployed in IL.

Tracy Kearney
7 months ago
Reply to  ConcernedExpat

And that’s exactly why the legislature remains home. They do not want to be held accountable

S and P 500
7 months ago

The piece in the NY Times about Las Vegas was mind-blowing. LV has been shut down and it is particularly vulnerable because 90% of the people who work there are food servers, bartenders, etc. A few years ago LV was the place where almost anybody could move there and get a job in the casinos and make enough to buy a house. All that ended quicker than a bad run at the slot machines.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/26/us/Coronavirus-unemployment-Las-Vegas.html

DantheMan
7 months ago

Am I the only one that thinks it’s only a matter of time before most of the population has had the virus no matter what we do to prevent it? If it is basically inevitable, let’s not destroy ourselves trying to avoid it. I would also use similar logic regarding Illinois debt. Insolvency is inevitable so let’s deal with it now instead of making things worse with delay tactics.

Jeff Berkowitz
7 months ago
Reply to  DantheMan

Most importantly, based on the science and the data, if you have no underlying conditions, it is most likely to be as unpleasant as the flu, and if you are under 70, that will almost surely be the case. We can handle the disease. It’s the cure that will kill you

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Berkowitz

Except that the chances of survival for elderly decreases with age and the younger obese and diabetic are also at risk of death too. If there was ever a time for a young person with a high BMI to lose some weight, now would be the time. Based on all available date, it’s about 5x as lethal as the flu and it’s rather communicable. Not shutdown worthy but old people and obese people need to isolate for the foreseeable future.

DixonSyder
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

Just fed my dog a t-bone steak, $11.99 a pound and well worth it. Enjoy your Meow Mix. PAY ME and MY DOG!

The Truth Hurts
7 months ago
Reply to  DixonSyder

You should start feeding him prime t-bones. A little bit more but your dog is worth it.

debtsor
7 months ago

He thinks he’s being funny, but the reality is that he is tone deaf and completely out of touch. Close to a million people in IL have filed for unemployment in the last month and many of them haven’t even received a check yet. Because of Jabba. Food banks are literally running out of food in my township. They’re turning people away because the township food bank RAN OUT OF FOOD. But you two bozos think it’s funny to joke about using state pension checks to feed his dog t-bone steak. Which is even more tone deaf, because there are… Read more »

The Truth Hurts
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

I think it’s funny that you should have any say as to how a pensioner spends their money. It’s not your money. The state of Illinois traded that money for their labor. When you hire a contractor to work on your house the money they collect is theirs. If they want to light their cigars with that money they are well within their rights.

debtsor
7 months ago

But I stop paying the contractor when he finishes the job. But IL state continues to pay that contractor after he stops working, and especially in cases involving pension bumps, we chose to pay the contractor even more money in retirement than they earned while working. And I wasn’t tell him how to spend his money. I was merely suggesting that his intended ridicule is really tone deaf. He is getting paid his lavish pension while we have 1M+ people unemployed. My wife took a massive pay cut and most of my business was effectively shut down until June. He… Read more »

The Truth Hurts
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

“But I stop paying the contractor when he finishes the job.” Not if you signed a contract that said you would pay him $XXX now and $XXX per year for the rest of your life 35 years from now. As far as people taking pay cuts. Let me say how sorry I am that you and your family have suffered under this lock down. My intention was not to be tone deaf but rather to point out it shouldn’t matter what these people spend their money towards. I know many people that have lost their jobs and one of my… Read more »

Debtsor
7 months ago

“ They are just trying to provide for their family as you are for yours.”. Nobody enters into a contact to pay a contractor after the job is done unless the contractor provides financing. Is that what IL ultimately did? We used financing to pay our employees? Regardless The pension contracts might be legitimate. but they are inequitable, unfair and morally indefensible in our day and age. The law is on the pensioners side for now. But math is on our side. And the default will come. We as taxpayers all have every right to be disgusted with the pension… Read more »

The Truth Hurts
7 months ago
Reply to  Debtsor

I certainly wouldn’t enter into that contract but the state did. The pensioners were not given a choice. They were required to join the pension and make contributions.

That’s fine that you will only be satisfied by pensioners taking a hair cut. Just don’t be surprised when pensioners come on the same site where you express your thoughts and are tone deaf to your struggles. Save the victim mentality for someone else.

JimBob
7 months ago

You are providing the responses we have come to expect. Many of us read the Klonsky blog, but he won’t print our comments. Here you can vent or persuade. Speaking for myself, your comments are welcome here. Also revealing. One expects single-minded advocacy and unyielding partisanship. Refreshing would be some attempt to see if there are any first principles that could be the foundation of an intelligent debate. Meanwhile sticks-n-stones rule the day and each side gets angrier. Anger is an emotion that results from hurt or from fear. It gets expressed through overstatement and braggadocio. Which way is it… Read more »

RM
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Berkowitz

There are healthy 30-40 yr olds (no underlying conditions) having STROKES due to the virus. Does the regular flu do this? Ignoring the cure is what kills you.

Benicia
7 months ago
Reply to  DantheMan
RM
7 months ago
Reply to  DantheMan

The point of flattening the curve is to make sure our hospitals are NOT overrun. You reopen everything, and people will be refused care because there simply is no room. Think!

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  RM

Let me guess – you are getting a government paycheck?

DixonSyder
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

Start calling him names like you usually do. No matter the topic you always start on the govt worker attacks. You are just a failed individual. On another topic……PAY ME!

Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  DixonSyder

Guys, don’t start again.

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

He won’t leave me alone!

Mike Williams
7 months ago

Look at your 2019 income and tax bills. Soon you will remember them fondly as the good ole days.