By: Mark Glennon*
Route Fifty, a publication for state and local government administrators, has a good report on the collection of COVID-19 virus by the Center for Disease Control.
Both the State of Illinois and the federal government ignored that key data until recently, as we reported here on April 6: It was until March 29 that Vice President Michael Pence sent a directive to hospitals to send in their daily inventories of open beds, ICU units, ventilators, occupancy, virus victims and the like. The State of Illinois did not do so until April 2.
Those numbers are critical because they tell us where capacity is truly tight, which states need the most help and which areas within states need attention. The numbers are also essential to making rational decisions about when and how stay-at-home rules should be loosened.
But as Route Fifty reports, the CDC has reported its numbers sloppily and sporadically. Illinois, too, remains deficient in reporting the numbers it collects. If you want them, you have to make a special request each day and then you only get grand totals. That tells us nothing about whether or where there are genuine problem areas within the state.
Governor JB Pritzker’s daily briefings have mentioned the key numbers only occasionally and selectively. He has only focused on problem areas, such as a few hospitals in north suburban Chicago which have been near capacity, and ICU inventories which initially appeared to be in short supply. The media has done the same.
However, as my colleagues here at Wirepoints detailed earlier this week, Illinois on the whole has far more capacity than it needs now and on the date cases are expected to peak.
The numbers initially reported to us for April 9 showed a decrease in total number of coronavirus patients in Illinois hospitals over the previous day, which was stated in the initial version of this article. Interestingly, however, on April 10 they sent a revision to those numbers showing that the total increased.
Projections and claims by politicians about needed hospital capacity and supply are turning out to have been far too pessimistic, both in Illinois and across the nation. That error undoubtedly is attributable in part to failure to collect current numbers, which we said before was inexcusable. Without real time updates on current capacity and utilization, projections almost certainly will be wrong.
This article was updated on April 10 to change the next-to-last paragraph as indicated.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.