By: Ted Dabrowki and John Klingner

Six months into COVID-19, the media and Illinois’ political elite continue to push cases and the case positivity rate as the key statistics of the pandemic. So much so, that Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have threatened shut downs all over again if the case numbers continue to go up.

The persistent reporting of rising cases and high positivity rates invoke fear, but the public should know that cases alone don’t matter. What really matters are hospitalizations and deaths. And those have yet to rise in Illinois, even if cases have risen significantly for more than a month and a half.

Gov. Pritzker warned last week that about cases, “…right now things are not headed in the right direction.” Lightfoot said much the same last month, saying Chicago was “dangerously close to going back to a dangerous state of conditions” and threatened more recently to “take steps backwards.”

It should be no surprise that cases have increased in Illinois as it partially reopened parts of the economy. But as the data below shows, there are no causes for concern yet.

What’s up with cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Illinois

Cases have been on the increase for about 50 days, a reflection of Illinois reopening its economy as part of Phase 3.

On June 18, Illinois experienced a seven-day average low of 596 cases. By August 9, cases had jumped to 1,734 – three times higher than on June 18.

Those stats would be worrisome if Illinois were seeing a corresponding increase in hospitalizations, but that has not been the case. Nearly a month and a half after the increase in cases began, the state now has 433 fewer hospitalizations than it did on June 18 (see below graphic).

If rising cases reflect a problem, we haven’t yet seen it in hospitalizations.

Deaths measured on a seven-day average also have failed to move up noticeably – even if you take an extended lag-time into consideration. On August 9, the state had 33 less deaths than the average on June 18. In fact, the seven-day average of deaths in Illinois hit their lowest point on August 4, almost seven weeks after cases began rising again.

We’re not implying that more hospitalizations and deaths won’t follow the increase in cases, as has happened in states like Texas, Florida and Arizona recently. A rise is inevitable in Illinois as the state loosens its strict and protracted shutdown.

What’s clear, however, is that cases in Illinois are currently decoupled from hospitalizations and deaths.

It’s worth noting that Illinois’ positivity rate is also a poor indicator of trouble. Positivity is pushed and pulled in different directions depending on changes in where testing is concentrated, on whom is being tested and the volume of testing. If a particular region begins focusing on problem hotspots, for example, the rate would spike up, though that might not be representative of the region as a whole.

So unless the rate is accompanied by more detailed demographic data that shows which populations are begin infected, positivity by itself doesn’t mean much.

Good trends in Illinois

If Illinois’ trend continues – higher cases but continued low hospitalizations and low death totals – it may be that several good things are happening. 

Increased testing across the state may be picking up more asymptomatic or low-level infections. That would be particularly true if those infected are younger, healthier people

It could be that Illinois is finally protecting retirement home residents better, which was a major cause of deaths earlier in the pandemic. More than 54 percent of the state’s 7,600 deaths are tied to retirement homes.

Or it may be Illinois doctors are getting better at treating COVID patients who do end up becoming hospitalized. 

On that first point, we can only guess as to the ages of the most recent cases. Gov. Pritzker and his staff make it impossible for the public to know who the newly infected are – the IDPH only covers the demographics of the state’s cumulative totals.

Compare that to Florida, where the state publishes the average age of cases daily, along with a host of other demographic data so residents can see just who is currently the most impacted by the virus.

The median age of Floridians infected by COVID-19 daily, for example, has fallen to the low 40s, down from the mid 60s only a few months ago. 


More shutdowns under Pritzker and Lightfoot’s orders would be a second disaster for Illinois. Businesses that barely survived the last one would be wiped out, more jobs would be lost and government revenues would collapse further.

Moreover, it’s not even good science. Remember this graphic? 

The whole purpose of the lockdown was not to decrease the number of overall COVID-19 cases but to spread them out over time. Experts across the nation explained early in the pandemic that everyone was eventually going to be infected if no vaccine was rapidly developed.

The bottom line is this: Cases and positivity rates by themselves don’t matter. What really matters are hospitalizations and our ability to handle them well.

Read more about Illinois and COVID-19:

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Bruce Gilpin
5 months ago

I think that this is a reasonable point to be made at this point in time. Emphasis on “this point in time.” The virus has been very unpredictable and has effects that have never been seen before. I don’t think that Pritzker is thinking of closing the state right now.
Finally, the state is not withholding information on who is infected. The test results come under HIPPA rules and indentfying demographic info cannot be released without the patient’s consent.

Joe The Plumber
5 months ago

Beetle Bailey needs to sue more people. Kudos to him in his slavish devotion to Orange Hitler that beetle decided to also become morbidly obese.

5 months ago

Your premise is simply wrong – hospitalizations and deaths matter but they’re not ALL that matters, We’re not gods, we don’t know how bad the side effects and increased risk of other conditions are yet, but we do have credible reports that there are some. One study showed persistent lingering symptoms of those hospitalized 3 weeks (and counting) after release. Young people may be at future cardiac risk. And who knows how many people AREN’T hospitalized with the same issues because they gutted it out at home (or didn’t have health insurance or the ability to pay the co-pay, etc.).… Read more »

The Truth Hurts
5 months ago
Reply to  RustyJones

Rusty, You wrote “Your premise is simply wrong – hospitalizations and deaths matter but they’re not ALL that matters” The article “but the public should know that cases alone don’t matter. What really matters are hospitalizations and deaths.” I did not read the article to state that cases don’t matter just that it’s not the most important thing to keep your eye upon. Case numbers on their own are don’t provide us much in terms of information. The CDC has told us that at least 10 times as many people have had this virus as have been confirmed. It only… Read more »

5 months ago

The Covid patient should be free to choose the type of medicine they want, in any state, NOT A GOVERNOR KEEPING A DOCTOR FROM PRESCRIBING CERTAIN MEDICINES such as hydroxychloroquine! Have you ever questioned how many lives would, could have been saved if Hydroxychloroquine and z-pack would have been an option for Doctors to prescribe? Look at the states which Prohibit this from being prescribed..mainly Democratic run states!

Last edited 5 months ago by Lana
Joe The Plumber
5 months ago
Reply to  Lana

We need to be able to inject bleach so we do not get Kung Flu.

5 months ago
Reply to  Lana

So true. The fact that governors interfere with medical decision tells you all you need to know about this virus. It is all political, with no science being applied by governors who interfere.

5 months ago

Do we have data on the number of testing that is currently being done vs a few months ago? My guess is that more testing is being done now (which is why number of cases are up) than before with it being free and more accessible. The COVID-19 cases a few months back were more likely the more extreme cases due to them being tested in the hospitals. The whole virus is likely statistically closer to another variation of the flu, IMO. Also, what is the false-positive for these tests? That has to be factored in because most diagnostic tests… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Timbo
5 months ago
Reply to  Timbo

What are the numbers also for those who have multiple tests over a course of days and each case counted as a new case–same person.
How many are false positive because they have had a cold or some other virus that is similar and yet gets counted as this.?
THE Science (which Pritzker keeps citing) is never shown. We are just supposed to believe that what ever he spews out of his mouth is the truth.
Verify verify is what I have been taught –not to just accept what others state.

John Whitcomb
5 months ago

Have scientists ignored this relationship or have they been overwhelmed by the politicians?

I am also struck by the extent to which politicians have become decision-makers in a field they know nothing about?

5 months ago

Ted & John…just what is the lag time between “testing” and reporting??? That’s a very important stat when we see that other states who have increases are also reporting them as “real-time”. And it’s been proven that there can be a 6 week lag and those states are not completely reporting or their local health departments are hiding all the demographics from their residents and the CDC. We need full demographics to help us determine whether we’re being lied to over and over.

Fed up neighbor
5 months ago
Reply to  NiteCat

Of course no hard facts yet, but living in Illinois should answer your question

5 months ago

Hate to say it, but Fed up Neighbor is right. Illinois puts out the bare minimum for being the 6th largest state with nearly 8,000 deaths. Look around at info from other states and their data is far richer. There’s so much more we wish we had here. Nevertheless, I’ll dig into your question.

5 months ago
Reply to  Ted Dabrowski

Yes agree with you Ted. The cruel trickery of Democratic/Communist states.

Richard Poo Millersky
5 months ago

I have no idea who to believe or what to believe. Some of these health experts are experts in other fields of health. I don’t know what Bill Gates’ health expertise is. 😮

5 months ago

From my view point all I have seeing are number of new cases rising, but could that be because more test kits and test sights are available. Hospitalizations are apparently down, not sure what to make of this, but it seems strange that this side of the pandemic is down played.

Hank Scorpio
5 months ago
Reply to  Ron

My pet theory is increased vitamin d levels from the summer sun.

5 months ago
Reply to  Hank Scorpio

Exactly! If you look at low potassium,sodium,magnesium/zinc and viruses all are connected with the severity of Covid. These minerals are all depleted by medications for hypertension like thiazide diuretics(HCTZ). These are taken mostly taken by seniors due to they are very inexpensive and are covered by Medicare and Medicade. has many studies on this. Now add in low vitamin D which is common in nursing homes and people wonder so many are dying in nursing homes % wise compared to seniors same age who are living at home.

5 months ago

what also infuriates me is that lack of any blame put on all the “peaceful” protesting and rioting for the increase in positive cases, as I’m sure IF there were age breakdowns, would show mostly within the same ages demographics.

5 months ago

Let’s be honest. They don’t care a whit about anything but politics and power. The stats that are useful for that (at the moment “cases”) are what they’ll use. If things change they’ll move to something else with no explanation.

We can either accept that we’re dealing with sociopaths or else we can keep hitting our heads against the same tree forever.

5 months ago

Anyone who hasn’t figured out yet what is happening is either ignorant or a democrat. this virus was released to the planet around January 2020. 1 year before the U.S. Presidential and congressional elections. Coincidence? I think not. I believe the virus, albeit a global virus, was created and released to dethrone Donald Trump. Hate him or love him, he is the most, or among the most powerful leaders in world. What is his greatest accomplishment? The economy, record high stock markets, and low unemployment. What’s the best way to rid him from office if you can’t beat him at… Read more »

Curious Karl
5 months ago
Reply to  lee

“the real truth is and you know that no U.S. president can stop a global pandemic from taking it’s toll on the country.” — This is completely accurate. That said, most of what you wrote is pure fiction. The virus isn’t a conspiracy to end Trump (no more than 9/11 was an inside job). The federal government had an opportunity to take the lead on this and put out a unified response and instead we had a disjointed and inept early response. Trump constantly undercut himself and if he had some actually competent people working for him instead of lackeys… Read more »

5 months ago
Reply to  Curious Karl

question: how did all three building collapse in the same way despite being damaged differently? And, if you think building seven fell due to fire, there is no hope for you pal.

5 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

It’s frustrating that most people I chat with had no idea there was a building 7.

Bob Out of Here
5 months ago

68% of Covid deaths are in long term care facilities in Ohio. The Governor is making a huge deal about the increasing number of positive cases but has yet to discuss if there’s an increase in hospitalizations or deaths. Local media does not want to ask because that would derail the narrative.

5 months ago

If the media did their job as professional’s and reported the facts only and let us make up our own mind there would be a lot less concern. But they have their own agenda to make it sound as bad as possible.

5 months ago
Reply to  lgm

anything to discredit Trump!

Lyn P
5 months ago

Amen. They PLANNED that we would forget that original “flatten” graphic. They PLANNED to re-label thousands of deaths as Covid. They PLANNED to put high-risk elderly in nursing homes which cannot properly address any acute issue. They PLANNED to switch to “testing” (not a legit test as stated by its inventor!) and “cases” to keep the con going in summer. They PLANNED mask ramp-up and more fear narratives. They PLAN additional lockdowns. Watch out for what is planned this fall/winter if sane, freedom respecting people do not stand UP!!

5 months ago
Reply to  Lyn P

just my opinion, but watch how “magically” the virus pandemic starts to slow down and rid it itself after the 2020 election. Coincidence? I think not. All part of the plan. Watch how vaccines will come out and the virus case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths start to ramp down after the election. What country has the most to gain if the U.S. economy tanks? The Chinese government. Who has the most to gain if Trump if not re-elected? The Chinese government. Who could care less if a large number of their own population die due to the virus? The Chinese… Read more »