By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner
Illinois will never get back to any sense of normalcy as long as the media and Gov. J.B. Pritzker continue to push cases as the key measure of the virus’ danger to the general public. As we wrote last month, it’s not cases that matter, but hospitalizations and deaths.
That’s important because there’s been no real increase in hospitalizations or deaths for three whole months. Cases have tripled since their lows on June 18, yet the average daily death rate has actually fallen from 50 then, to about 19 today.
We’ve heard no explanation from Pritzker and others on why hospitalizations and deaths haven’t increased. Instead, they continue to treat case growth and positivity rates as what really matters.
What gives? Why won’t Gov. Pritzker share the facts with Illinois residents and businesses still affected by his continued partial lockdown?
Here are a few of the questions the governor should answer: Are cases way up and hospitalizations flat because it’s young, healthier people that make up most of the new cases? Is it because there are many more asymptomatic cases? Is it because newer cases are coupled with fewer pre-existing conditions? Is it because the virus has already spread through Illinois’ most-vulnerable populations? Is it because Illinois is finally protecting retirement home residents better?
We can’t answer any of the above questions because Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health won’t provide such data. And it’s not like they can’t. Other states do.
Take Florida, for example. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ team provides daily case information by age and the average age of all cases, by day and by county. It also provides current hospitalizations by age bracket. The links to Florida’s detailed daily data and person by person data are here and here.
Cases up, hospitalizations and deaths flat
Let’s look at the data we do have to make the case that Gov. Pritzker needs to be much more transparent with Illinoisans.
Below is the graphic of daily cases in Illinois since the pandemic began. You can see beginning on June 18th that cases based on a 7-day moving average reached a low of 596. Since then, cases have tripled. Those increases were followed by weeks of official warnings that Illinois was “headed in the wrong direction” and by threats of new shutdowns for parts of the economy.
Rising case levels were also the reason given by school districts for not reopening in person earlier this month.
But what’s being ignored is that hospitalizations and deaths failed to rise in tandem with the increased daily case count.
Hospitalizations are actually down by about 400 patients compared to June 18th’s 1,932 patients. Even using the lowest point of hospitalizations since June 18th – a 7-day average of 1,400 on July 17 – hospitalizations are only up by about 9 percent today. That’s a long way from tripling.
The 7-day average of daily deaths also fell, then remained steady over the past three months. Illinois was suffering an average of 50 deaths a day on June 18th, the date cases began their rise. Today, average daily deaths are around 19.
Every death is tragic. But considering the significant spike in cases, for now the correlation between cases and hospitalizations/deaths is broken. Illinois has flattened the hospitalization and death curves, and that’s great news.
We don’t know what path the virus will take going forward and we should be vigilant if hospitalizations and deaths begin to rise again. Illinoisans would have to adjust as necessary. But it’s been six months since this pandemic began. The public deserves to begin making their own decisions on what level of risk they can accept. To do that, Illinoisans need the facts.
Gov. Pritzker and his team should be releasing all the data behind the “science” of COVID. With the disease not going away, it’s his job to give Illinoisans the information they require.
Illinoisans shouldn’t be kept in the dark.
Read more about the impact of COVID-19 on Illinois: