By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s own COVID-19 metrics, Illinois’ downstate regions should have entered Phase 4 of his reopening plan weeks ago. The data supporting that claim is overwhelming, especially when the downstate numbers are compared with those of the Chicagoland region.

Case positivity rates downstate have collapsed for nearly two straight months and never reached the highs seen in Chicagoland. Per capita hospital admissions have also been just a fraction of those in the Northeast region. And there was never the risk of running short of hospital resources downstate like there was in Chicago.

The reality is downstate Illinois never came close to reaching the crisis levels experienced in the broader Chicago region. In fact, close to half of Illinois’ counties have yet to experience their first COVID-19 death. 

And wherever there has been a problem, it’s often been related to retirement home deaths and not the general public.

When Gov. Pritzker released his reopening plan on May 5, he should have taken into account the major COVID-19 data differences that already existed between the downstate and Chicago regions. Instead, the governor went with his one-size-fits-all approach that has delayed all of Illinois’ reopening for weeks.

That delay has consequences. Businesses are closing for good and individuals are losing their livelihoods. The damage being done to people’s lives, including deaths of despair, is real. If Pritzker is truly committed to science and data – and to balancing lives and livelihoods – he’ll do the right thing and let downstate open up faster. 

The requirements for moving to Phase 4

Pritzker launched his five-phase reopening plan on May 5th, creating four regions based on the state’s existing emergency management service areas. Those regions are the Northeast, North-Central, Central and Southern areas of the state.

Illinois as a whole moved to Phase 3 of the plan on May 29. The requirements for moving to Phase 4 are:

  • At or under a 20 percent positivity rate and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period, AND
  • No overall increase (i.e., stability or decrease) in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days, AND
  • Available surge capacity of at least 14 percent of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators.
  • Testing available in the region regardless of symptoms or risk factors.
  • Begin contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis for more than 90 percent of cases in the region.

Because of the rules above, the earliest Illinois can move to Phase 4 is June 26. Let’s look at each metric and see how the downstate regions measure up based on COVID-19 data from Mark Maxwell of WCIA, who FOIA’ed the IDPH for data back to March 1. 

1. The three downstate regions’ case positivity rates never came close to the Northeast region’s near-30 percent peak. The Southern region peaked at 16 percent, the North-Central at 12 percent, while the Central region peaked at just 8 percent.

Even more, the downstate regions have been below 10 percent positivity since May 9 and the most recent numbers are now all below 5 percent.

Overall, the positive case rates in the downstate regions peaked nearly two months ago.

2. Hospital admissions across downstate Illinois have been far lower than in the Chicago area, both on a gross and per capita basis. Average hospital admissions in any of the three non-Chicagoland regions never exceeded more than 23 people a day. Southern Illinois’ maxed out at 17 admissions, as did Central Illinois.

Those daily hospital admission numbers pale in comparison to those of the Northeast region, which reached a high of 444 people on April 27. On a per capita basis, that’s four to five times more admissions than the downstate regions each experienced at their peak moments.

Because the admissions in the Northeast region dwarf the rest of the state, below is a look at just downstate hospital admissions. Each region had a different date for their peak admissions, but all occurred long before Illinois moved to Phase 3.

3. All three downstate regions have had sufficient surge capacity since the beginning of the crisis. A glance at the 7-day averages for hospital resource availability shows that none of the downstate regions ever came close to falling below Pritzker’s 14 percent surge requirement for moving to Phase 4.*

That’s in sharp contrast to the Northeast region, which bumped up against that limit early on in the crisis and then a second time in mid-May.

**********

Many downstaters have suffered ridicule and name calling for trying to get their regions opened up sooner, but the numbers increasingly prove it’s their detractors who are wrong

The major disparity in data between the regions shows just how unnecessarily draconian the shutdown has been for downstate. The data also shows that Pritzker’s required month-long delay before moving on to Phase 4 is entirely unjustified. By now every region of the state, including Chicago, should be accelerating their reopening.

The only thing holding them back is the governor’s plan. Unfortunately, Pritzker seems more interested in sticking to his arbitrary schedule rather than actually following the data.

*FOIA data for hospital resources covered March 1 through May 25. Additional data for ICU and Med/Surg beds through June 13 was collected from the IDPH website. The state does not publicly release ventilator data by EMS region.

Read more about COVID-19 and the impact on Illinois:

39 Comments
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MP
2 months ago

Good article and graphics.

We need to remember that this plan for reopening and all of Governor Pritzker’s “orders” are just recommendations. They aren’t legal.

Last edited 2 months ago by MP
True believer
3 months ago

The spike in cases in the Us is due totally to more testing as well as the Democratic Party induced riots, looting and burning intended to tank trumps election. In Chicago, the increased numbers will be due to the permanent victim class refusal to social distance while having street and house parties, drinking and smoking in every park and playgrounds, taking the el from the south and west side to rob on Michigan Avenue, carjack and rob and congregating on corners selling dope. Add these terrible behaviors as well as the stupid riots, the numbers will rise.

Lindsay Karnes
3 months ago

PRITZKER IS AN IDIOT DRUNK ON POWER AND OUT TO DESTROY OUR STATE. WHICH BY THE WAY HE HAS DONE. HE NEEDS TO GO FAR AWAY.

SC
3 months ago

Downstaters whine too much and blame all their woes on “Chicago”
Find a way to support local businesses and realize we are dealing with an unprecedented event,
If you’re unhappy look for a solution instead of blaming someone else,
And, for those cut Chicago off people. Please do it. The Chicago area sends more money downstairs while downstaters send nothing to “Chicago”.
Take the pensions for the jobs in your areas and get out. I could use the tax break.

Susan
3 months ago
Reply to  SC

You are factually inaccurate.
Chicago is subsidized by the rest of Illinois, as a function of inequitable distribution of school funding.
This is due to corrupt legislation, and TIF rendering most valuable Chicago EAV assessed at a small fraction of its true value.

debtsor
3 months ago
Reply to  Susan

CPS attendance has been falling significantly for years. I’ve heard they apparently count the universal pre-school kids as CPS attendance, and still, attendance is down. The only demographic that has an increasing number of students in CPS is Latinks, many of them likely illegal or the children of illegals, but that’s still not enough to offset the losses of other Races. White students population is down to 9% of CPS total, and only half of all white children in the city of Chicago even attend CPS, and even if all White students in Chicago attended CPS, it STILL wouldn’t be… Read more »

Joseph McGuire
3 months ago

I sorry I’ve said from the beginning that things never added up. In my opinion its been about the money from day one. I don’t believe our Govenor has had anyone’s health in mind cence the onset of this whatever their trying to do to the county.

Windy
3 months ago

Pritzker has money invested in the Covid-19 test kit makers. He should be recalled. It seems like we only get crooks for governor. No wonder the state is hundreds of billions of dollars in debt. Chicago should be disconnected from the rest of the state.

taxpaying citizen
3 months ago

Pritzker is over-matched by the demands of the job – in other words a prime example of the Peter Principle. He has risen to his highest level of incompetence.

SickofPritzker..
3 months ago

Pritzker needs to be forced out of office..He hasn’t done anything for our state whatsoever, itsl like he and the rest of the democrats hes’ under are wanting to kill babies and continue to rob our state and those of us who live here. THEY WORK FOR US!!! We don’t work for THEM !!! And THEY are robbing us..GET REAL PEOPLE GET REAL!!!

bluegrassfan76
3 months ago

After we hit phase 4 next week we will be stuck there for what will probably be several years as the evil dictator says he will not let us fully reopen until there is a widely available vaccine or cure. How many people realize that I wonder???

Grumpy individual
3 months ago
Reply to  bluegrassfan76

We have to face the reality that Illinois is not going to reopen until Pritzker (or more accurately, Madigan) feels like it.

kavicthedog
3 months ago
Reply to  bluegrassfan76

you mean like the vaccine for the common flu that has been on the market for years?

Manfred Downstate
3 months ago
Reply to  bluegrassfan76

Right, bluegrassfan76 . . . assuming we do move to Phase 4 next week, there is no off-ramp in view to Phase 5 “Illinois Restored.” The way Gov. JB has set things up, there’s no guarantee we’ll ever get to the “post-pandemic” phase. The criteria for moving to Phase 5 are either uncertain of achievement or vague, or both: availability of a “vaccine, effective and widely available treatment, or the elimination of new cases over a sustained period of time through herd immunity or other factors.” It’s sort of like the constant warfare Orwell’s “1984” meets the creatures in the… Read more »

True believer
3 months ago
Reply to  bluegrassfan76

The Marxist Democratic Party wants to tank the economy and is responsible for the riots, looting and burning in order to get senile joe elected and his domestic terrorist BLM chosen black VP. if Joe is elected, god forbid, he won’t last a month as those in power will see that we have a radical black cop hating woman Vp in quick order.

Bobbie Thornton
3 months ago

Typical democrat response to MAGA, it will all be over if Pres Trump loses in Nov or get worse if he wins! Vote Red and vote incumbents out!

bluegrassfan76
3 months ago

Deomonrat, not democrat. They have an evil agenda.

Manfred Downstate
3 months ago

Gov. JB should have reopened downstate Illinois weeks ago–absolutely! The Restore Illinois Health Regions map did not make any sense when it was released. Other than the Northeast Region, the regions as drawn did not and could not take into account Illinois’ urban and rural character and differences in population density that would give rise to differences in the incidence of Covid-19. For that matter, there are counties and towns in the Northeast Region that can correctly say that the Northeast Region itself was over-sized. By that time the map came out, we already had sufficient information to expect where… Read more »

Robin Barton
3 months ago

Just goes to prove he’s deep within Covidfor his personal testing company financial gains, federal bailout money for the state for gross amount of IL pensions, to break the state of the small businesses and will lower the income rates to break down to the poor and the rich. Gobbling up more and more tax revenues for the disgusting Maddigan, PRICKster and Lightfoot to have more control! We’re MOVING out of this crooked politician state! Hope your happy ya pricks…so many great small businesses have closed! All summer revenues down the drain! Hope they sue the hell out of you… Read more »

hopsboyz
3 months ago

Everyone looks at Illinois as CHICAGO – many of us downstate are frustrated but as long as Cook County runs this state it’s hard for a change. We stayed at home ( didn’t have St. Patrick’s day party), we have followed all the “rules” and were laughed at by the governor but I think our numbers should mean something.

3 months ago

Or perhaps it was a scorched earth policy…if we (Chicago) suffer, you guys are going to also…

3 months ago

At this point, it can only mean the governor was punishing the downstate…and now the state will lose $20-30million on the loss of the trapshoot event.

UnclePugsly
3 months ago
Reply to  kathiann

Yeah, we can only hope that one day Chicago Democrats are stopped from forcing downstate to subsidize them and their failed ideas.

Carrie
3 months ago
Reply to  UnclePugsly

I hope you realize that it’s actually Chicago revenues that subsidize all of downstate.

Susan
3 months ago
Reply to  Carrie

You are factually inaccurate.
The largest State funding distribution occurs in Sprinfield-designed school funding formula, which is artificially stacked in favor of CPS to the detriment of all other districts.
(This is before considering TIF which has tremendously skewed wealthy Chicago districts ‘ EAV downward and resulted in extremely higher portions of state schiol funding than their fair shares under the law).

https://www.illinoispolicy.org/new-education-funding-plan-repeats-chicago-public-schools-bailout-history/
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-05/chicago-schools-expected-to-get-state-aid-hike-deputy-governor

D71
3 months ago

I believe in heard immunity. I have a compromised immune system, and have only took the bascic precautions., ie, washing hands, sanitizing and cleaning,..im 48. I have had no problems. We should have opened along time ago. I live in the north-central region.

3 months ago

I don’t really believe this is about the virus so much as it is just another attempt to take down the whole economy of our country. It seems to me that all of the riots etc are all coming about at a time when the virus scheme just didn’t get their job done as they had hoped. It is time for the American people to wake up and take back control of our country.

Carrie
3 months ago
Reply to  Marie Kennedy

You realize don’t you that the entire world is affected by COVID, not just America? Pretty widespread conspiracy, if so. And to what end?

debtsor
3 months ago
Reply to  Carrie

Yes, but it’s clear that RED states shut down less, while BLUE states seemed to be tanking their economy on purpose.

SickofPritzker..
3 months ago
Reply to  Marie Kennedy

Marie Kennedy, I agree with you 100% they want President Trump out of Presidency because he is pulling back all the rotten skin we all have been trying to work hard and make life better, but taxes keep raising, dictatorship is something they say our President doesn , HA, our President is trying HIS BEST(NOT THANKS TO ANY CONGRESSMAN OR WOMAN, DUE TO THEY GET PAID , BUT ONLY WORK THEY DO ,IS WORK UP MORE LIES AND THEORIES TO PUT OUT THERE FOR THEIR FOLLOWERS TO SUCK INTO THEIR HEADS) Our President is working to IMPROVE our Country, not… Read more »

chumpchange
3 months ago

Repeat. “This is not about health. This is about control.”

kavicthedog
3 months ago
Reply to  chumpchange

it all started with the smoking ban.i am not saying it did not help,but when the government starts telling business’s to comply or loose your license then it is control.
they are doing the same thing with the virus.if you don’t want to go out and eat or drink then don’t.but don’t shut the whole state down because less than 2% die

UnclePugsly
3 months ago

Thank you Wirepoints – You hit this one out of the park!!!

To wit:

“Many downstaters have suffered ridicule and name calling for trying to get their regions opened up sooner, but the numbers increasingly prove it’s their detractors who are wrong.”

And exactly who were the people from Chicago lampooning downstaters like they don’t know what they are talking about when they live there? Pritzker, Chicago Democrats, and the Democrat partisan media mob in Chicago. Downstaters have paid a heavy price in real terms to be a political pawn for Pritzker and Democrats with their lockdown hoax.

Illinois Entrepreneur
3 months ago

Remember the scene in Men in Black where it was revealed that a tiny alien was living inside one of the characters’ body? My theory is that this is the case with Pritzker. I mean, why else would we get such nonsensical non-answers to basic English questions if not for an extra terrestrial that inhabits Mr. Pritzker’s head? “Governor, how do you plan on saving this state from economic collapse?” “A contract is a contract” “Governor, it looks like we have less Covid-19 infections than we had before even anything was locked down…do you think we should open, if not… Read more »

MIB.jpg
SickofPritzker..
3 months ago

I feel he and Madigan have destroy Illinois plans, and they continue to do so, it’s a leftist action,killing babies, look at those areas with the looters, and Seattle who are dems in leadership there and now they are doing their best to get rid or defund our police. What’s their agenda??? Working towards wanting to rid our President of his position from before the day he was voted in, to this day, the dems are trying to trip him up with putting everyone else through financial stresses., trying to control those in destructed areas, nothing makes a person more… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by SickofPritzker..
Susan
3 months ago

Rural Illinois should consider using the legal tactic which has been fiscally weaponized against their communities: TIF. Chicago has received enormous additional State education funding (“more than its fair share”) due to the artificially suppressed EAV in its wealthiest areas. TIF-for-All could solve this inequity. 1.If all rural areas incorporated and declared all corporate property blighted (case law supports that blight is in the eye of the Mayor). 2. All property owners are to be rebated pro rata TIF incremental tax payments, to take their own risk of development, or not, and cure their own blight. 3. 35 years (23… Read more »

DantheMan
3 months ago

I’ve never lived in downstate Illinois. It must be maddening to be linked to a city that is so messed up, and with people that are unable to link cause with effect. On the plus side, you downstate folks are closer to Tennessee and Florida when you decide you’ve had enough and get out.

dom
3 months ago
Reply to  DantheMan

You better believe we left 2 years ago! To a real southern state were I am a citizen,not a serf like any body is in the state of illinois.