By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

Lost in the attention over Illinois’ massive spike in COVID-19 cases is the collapse in the virus’ case fatality rate, or CFR. At the height of the crisis in June, almost 5 percent of Illinois’ recorded COVID cases resulted in deaths. But as recorded cases have risen significantly over the past three months and deaths have not, the fatality rate from August through today has dropped to just 0.9 percent.*

The latest COVID data is quickly revealing how less fatal the coronavirus really is, and that has major implications for lockdown policies and, in particular, for school shutdowns.

That drop in the case fatality rate reflects a dramatic increase in the number of COVID tests being performed, a significant increase in rates of infection among younger Illinoisans and reportedly better overall treatment of the virus. 

Illinois’ CFR is gradually dropping toward what the Center for Disease Control estimates is the virus’ true infection fatality rate (IFR), about 0.65 percent. In contrast to the case fatality rate, the IFR includes estimates of all infections, including asymptomatic cases, not just reported cases.

It’s important to note that the 0.9 percent case fatality rate reported above is an average across all age groups and it’s still heavily influenced upward by the high death rate for those 80 and older. The actual CFR for the younger age brackets is dramatically lower. We break out those numbers in a following section.

Illinois cases, hospitalizations and deaths

Daily reported cases in Illinois, based on the 7-day rolling average, have jumped to about 12,000 a day. That’s five times higher than when the state’s cases last peaked on May 7th.

*Graphic updated as of 11/12

But while cases have quintupled, hospitalizations are still flat when compared to their first peak in May. We’ll have to keep an eye on where hospitalizations go, but what the data shows is the tens of thousands of new cases in Illinois over the past month haven’t required the same levels of medical care as earlier in the crisis.

That doesn’t mean hospital capacity issues won’t be a problem, but overall, the spike in cases hasn’t been followed by a corresponding massive increase in hospitalizations.

*Graphic updated as of 11/12

The breakdown in correlation between cases and deaths is even more pronounced. Daily deaths, based on a 7-day rolling average, are still 45% percent lower compared to Illinois’ original peak in May. Illinoisans should also keep an eye on deaths, but just like with hospitalizations, the data shows that a dramatic increase in cases hasn’t translated directly into far more fatalities. 

*Graphic updated as of 11/12

Illinois’ collapsing case fatality rate

As mentioned earlier, the state’s case fatality rate was at a frightening 4.9 percent at its height in June.

Illinois’ high CFR has been driven steadily downward since then as the daily increase in COVID-19 cases have far outpaced the growth in deaths. Illinois’ overall case fatality rate has fallen to just over 2 percent when the total number of deaths since March (10,196) is divided by all of Illinois’ recorded cases (487,827), as of Nov. 8.

The collapse in the fatality rate is even more visible when you look at the cases and deaths of the last three months in isolation. Since August 1, there have been 2,701 deaths on 307,351 confirmed cases, resulting in a case fatality rate of just 0.9 percent. 

The fall in the CFR is driven largely by two factors, in addition to better treatments. One is the significant increase in testing, which has led to more cases than otherwise would have been recorded. The state is now performing 80,000 to 100,000 tests daily, compared to just around 20,000 during the May/June peak.  

The second is that younger Illinoisans make up far more of the cases today. It’s hard to see in the graphics provided by the IDPH, but they show that the 20- to 49-age demographic has dominated new cases over the past several months. That’s in contrast to the start of the crisis, when most of the cases were the elderly and the infirm who ended up hospitalized. 

The real CFR

The below table breaks out the state’s CFR by age bracket.

Illinois’ overall CFR data since the inception of the virus shows that the fatality rate is now just over 2 percent. However, that’s heavily influenced by the 22 percent CFR for those 80 and older. The fatality rate for those under 20 is just 0.012 percent.

Those numbers drop significantly, however, when you look at the deaths and cases of just the past three months. The CFR for those 80 and older has fallen to 13.3 percent. While still deadly for too many, that’s a significant improvement in the CFR of more than 30 percent during the May/June peak. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the CFR for school-aged children has collapsed even further to 0.006 percent.

As more and more cases are captured by testing, the CFR figures continue to move toward the CDC’s estimated infection fatality rates, as shown below. 

Policy implications

The plummeting case fatality rate has major policy implications for the state’s COVID-fighting tactics – specifically for school district shutdowns and the state’s lockdown policies.

School districts, specifically, have all the data they need to successfully return to more robust levels of in-class learning – even amid the recent rise in cases. The latest case fatality numbers help confirm the extremely low fatality numbers shared by the young and middle-aged. New transmission research continues to show that schools are not the superspreaders they were once feared to be. And improved testing methods, such as New Trier School District’s new saliva screening adds even better protocols to districts’ safety procedures. 

And more broadly, the latest CFRs mean the use of broad economic lockdowns to control COVID-19’s spread – leading to deaths of despair – may be doing more harm than good. The numbers show that Illinois’ fatalities are still concentrated almost entirely among the elderly and medically vulnerable.

The state’s mitigation strategy should reflect that by focusing protection on those demographics, as opposed to shutting down the state.

*Another measure of the case fatality rate assumes deaths lag cases by approximately two weeks. The below graphic captures the CFRs assuming that lag. In the case of the overall CFR from March to November, the CFR rises to 2.7 percent from 2.1 percent (no lag). 

In terms of cases of deaths since August, the CFR rises to 1.4 percent from 0.9 percent (no lag).

Read more about COVID in Illinois here:

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Sherie Dvorak
3 days ago

If you separate the cases in the general public from those in nursing homes. The mortality rate become very interesting. Dupage County for example total deaths (numbers are from a few days ago) 635. 471 of them were in nursing homes. Mortality rate in a nursing home for the county is about 15% for the general population 0.6%

13 days ago

According to the IDPH web page, calculating mortality/death rates is completed using only cases with an outcome. Wirepoints has miscalculated these by using the total cases identified (including open cases with no outcome yet). That’s why the mortality rate Wirepoints shows is .9%, when it should be about 3%. IDPH is showing a 97% recovery rate. If a case has no clinical outcome, it is not determined to be recovered or not.

12 days ago
Reply to  SJ

I am prepared to wager a large sum with you, on the “no” side of your proposition that 3% of positive COVID-19 test cases will die by IDPH standards. ( There are several legal binary outcome prop bet sites if you are ready to back up your stated conviction with money). This is precisely what your source states: “** Recovered cases are defined as persons with initial positive specimen collection date > 42 days who have not expired. Recovery rate is calculated as the recovered cases divided by the sum of recovered cases and deceased cases. Information regarding the number… Read more »

Sherie Dvorak
3 days ago
Reply to  SJ

I can tell you that the cumulative mortality rates have been dropping since at least July. Which means the daily mortality rate is and has been steadily declining. July it was 4.4% cumulatively as of yesterday it is 2.0% nationwide! Also Illinois is not really reporting recovered cases! The mortality rates in Illinois nursing homes & long term care facilities are terrible, the general population not so much!

Thee Jabroni
14 days ago

All we seem to get are exagerated facts and propaganda from governor lump lump,his “medical professionals” and the fake news media,none of these people tell the whole story,just that we’re all gonna die from covid!-scare tactics-this is nothing more than a flu for otherwise healthy people-i call bullshit on all of these so called statistics

Downstate cynic
14 days ago

We need metrics in the daily COVID update that measures jobless claims, total unemployed, decreased tax revenue compared to budget, small business closures etc. so we can track the impact of shut down policies.

George P. Burdell
12 days ago

Things the media will never provide.

Bob Out of Here
15 days ago

The nephew of our accountant had an appointment for a test at a pop up site. He got there at the appointed time, and after waiting around he ran out of time and had to leave w/o getting tested. Yet the next day, his mom gets a call saying he tested positive! She got onto some online social group and posted this, and several other parents chimed in and said they had the same thing happen to them. Were the people at the site clairvoyant where they knew he was positive even though he didn’t get tested?

Joey Zamboni
15 days ago

It’s the new *crystal ball* test…

If your in line to get tested, it’s *assumed* your positive…

Lyn P
14 days ago

“Testing” is not testing it is Trapping.

13 days ago

This happened to a coworker of mine. He went with a few of his friends who also had left the facility before testing. All of them received calls stating a positive test. Ive also read about this happening across the US.

13 days ago

This has happened quite often.
There are the cases that a person dies in a car accident and yet they are tested afterwards.
Those that come up positive –the cause of death C-19–Seriously.
They are upping the “cases” because the hospitals need more money as does Lard A**.

Lyn P
15 days ago

By now we have a large library’s worth of studies, analyses, graphing and charting of volumes of “covid” data and percentages, etc….that exist in their own dense bubble of recycled air.

Bottom line, it’s been 11 months of lies at the core.

1) No SARS-Cov-2 was isolated, proven, or properly sequenced
2) No disease can be caused by a non-proven entity
3) No deaths can be attributed to a disease not proven to be caused by an entity not proven to exist.

Get there (all researchable) and you don’t reside in this House of Cards nonsense anymore.

15 days ago

Meanwhile Governor Pritzker, less than 24 hours after Pritzker’s administration had announced the governor had been exposed to COVID-19,  celebrated Joe Biden’s presidential victory by parading down a crowded Boystown sidewalk Saturday as coronavirus cases spiked to record levels in Illinois.
On Twitter, you can see unmasked men enjoying margaritas inside a Mexican restaurant — in defiance of Pritzker’s statewide ban on indoor dining — cheer as the governor posed for non-socially distance selfies with strangers.

15 days ago

Thanks for an illuminating post – yours is the voice of reason.

Joey Zamboni
15 days ago

What a tangled web they weave…

15 days ago

Meanwhile, Pfizer’s CEO just dumped 62% of his stock. Now why would someone do that if he knew the “vaccine” his company just announced was actually legit? Beware, folks.

15 days ago
Reply to  MikeH

I didn’t know that side of it, but it did occur to me when the public announcement was made and indicating much greater success rate than had been anticipated by literally everyone else who had made public their guesses about it prevously that this announcement may well have been another scam to run-up the stock’s price. I shudder to think people stoop to that level, but we’ve seen instances of this sort of thing in the past where the actual results don’t come anywhere close to what was claimed. “Buyer beware” went through my mind as I was hearing that… Read more »

15 days ago
Reply to  James

Pfizer originally put out a press release that said they would deliver before the election. Then canceled just days before. Pressure?

Platinum Goose
14 days ago
Reply to  James

The stock sale was planned way in advance. The timing of the vaccine announcement seems suspect.

14 days ago
Reply to  Platinum Goose

A really old, old saying comes to mind here: “them that has gets.”

Juicy Smollier
15 days ago

Almost all tests are false positives. They changed it from “flatten the curve” to “cases” so that the shutdown and control measures could be “justified”. It’s totally fake. Even if this were a lethal virus, which it clearly isn’t, the worst places to be are actually grocery stores. NOT bars, not restaurants, etc.

What would people do if they tried to shut down grocery stores? LOL

15 days ago

A lot of the positive numbers come from the tests. The tests are false positives. The tests can grab when your body has any inflammation. The tests can also grab if you had a common cold.
Also grabbing from the tests is Pritzker’s grubby fat hand because his family has a stake in the testing and in other aspects.

Dandy Drummer
4 days ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Cite evidence, ano

15 days ago

Great article.

15 days ago

What would the IFR be for age group 70+ – who ARE NOT confined to nursing homes/long term care facilities? If this age group resides with the general population (their own private residences) – is IFR reduced?

Manfred Downstate
14 days ago
Reply to  Michele

Good question . . . . and I would also ask a somewhat different question: what is the IFR or seriousness of the disease in the “healthy old”?

15 days ago

Another GREAT article, Wirepoints is “on point” again. I continue to be frustrated by the Governor and IDPH’s use of selective data to promote more and more lockdowns. Your careful analysis of their own data results in a totally different conclusion…I can’t imagine what other information they have that they are NOT sharing that could shed more light on this. What about the “news” I have heard that they changed the testing PCR to an overly-sensitive rate of .35 (or above?) which may also attribute to high “cases” count (we should be calling them positive tests, or “positives”…since there certainly… Read more »

15 days ago

Thank you for staying on the COVID data. Unfortunately, actual data does not seem to matter to liberals and their political agenda. Wait until they ramp up the “climate change” hysteria, even more than they have already done! You would think that the recent experience with the accuracy of projections (COVID and election polling) would give them a reason to re-think the reliance on projections to guide massive programs. I fear they have learned nothing from this experience.

Gayland Grant
15 days ago