By: Mark Glennon*

Until April 3, Illinois failed to collect daily information critical to assessing and managing the COVID-19 crisis – numbers on hospitalizations, bed capacity, ventilator availability and the like – which most other states collect and publish. It began doing so only under pressure, in which Wirepoints played no small role.

Now the state is bragging about the simple step it should have taken long ago, citing it as an example of its prowess in science and data, and using it for a political jab.

Reproduced below is an email directive Wirepoints obtained sent to all Illinois hospitals on April 2 by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). It belatedly directs all hospitals to provide the hospitalization information, as Wirepoints had written that the state needs to do. The reporting requirement commenced April 3, and IDHP published a compilation of what it obtained that day, which is also copied below.

Illinois still needs to do better, and the experience raises questions about what is going on.

Here are the details:

By late last month, a number of articles in national stories, citing experts, pointed out that the number of “new cases” of COVID-19 commonly seen in headlines to gauge the pandemic’s growth isn’t very useful. New case numbers mostly just reflect the huge surge in testing now being done, and most new case victims aren’t seriously sick and get sent home — or never knew they had coronavirus in the first place.

Instead, the hospitalization and available resource numbers reflect what’s important because they tell us where hospitals could get overloaded. Preventing that overload is the whole point of “flattening the curve.” Most importantly, the number of hospitalized victims is a better indication of how many are at risk of dying.

We began writing to that effect on Twitter in late March, directly asking the state to collect and release the data. Several state lawmakers did the same. ProPublica wrote a national story complaining that certain states, including Illinois, were not providing those numbers. Illinois gave them the run-around.

We wrote in detail about Illinois’ failure to report this data on March 26, and we asked Illinois reporters to challenge Governor JB Pritzker on the issue at his daily briefing. Rich Miller of CapitalFax, who is particularly friendly towards the Pritzker Administration, labeled us and some others who wanted the data “covidiots” on March 27. Later that day, Pritzker said Illinois was collecting the information piecemeal but would work on it “over the weekend.”

Nothing happened, so we wrote again on April 1, saying “This isn’t complicated.” Hospitals compile the information every day and can easily send it in. “Governor Pritzker,” we wrote, “have them send that daily information to the state and total it up! That’s the simple solution.”

That’s exactly what IDPH did in its April 2 email to hospitals. As you can see below, hospitals can just plug in the numbers every day and submit the counts digitally, and the state then can compile the data easily.

We emailed both IDPH and Pritzker’s press secretary April 3 when the numbers were due back, requesting that they share them. We didn’t hear from them that day but they did release the totals in a press release that day, which are below.

And now Pritzker’s media team has taken to Twitter to brag about their prowess with science and data based on the numbers they had to be pushed to collect. They went further and used those figures as part of Pritzker’s tiresome squabbles with the Trump Administration. Pritzker’s press secretary sent this tweet, along with the tweet shown from her deputy:

That talk about their monopoly on science and data appears almost everywhere in comments from Pritzker as well as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. We who dare question them, goes the implication, are science haters.

Their message is particularly galling when you consider that the federal government had already implemented a daily system for collecting the information, which is discussed below. Did the Pritzker administration just copy it? Did they not know about it? Why not coordinate? Did political squabbling have precedence over federal-state coordination?

Why this is important:

Pritzker and Lightfoot at April 3 briefing

All the models projecting risk of hospital overload and resources needed are useless if current, accurate numbers don’t go in. Junk in, junk out. Where exactly within Illinois is overload approaching? Which states need the most help? To answer those questions, you need to look at hospitalization rates and trends, empty capacity, available ventilators and such.

Those numbers will also be essential when the time comes for making the difficult decision about when to lift the shutdown and get people back to work. If we do it too soon the curve could spike again and overload medical resources; wait too long and unnecessary, further damage to the economy will result.

*******************

Open Questions; More to be Done:

What the numbers show and what’s still needed.

The new data show plenty of unused beds, for now, for the state as a whole – 11,502. That seems directionally consistent with the widely cited University of Washington projection, which says that even at the peak of the crisis Illinois should have more than enough beds.

Intensive care beds, however, are tighter, and that’s where attention appears needed. The new numbers show 806 ICU beds now open and the projection shows a shortage of 507 ICU beds at the peak.

Statewide totals don’t mean much, however, for particular regions because shortages may be concentrated. On that point, IDP botched the project because it published only grant totals. What IDPH should do is publish and use the new data by hospital or group it for particular cities or regions. That’s not hard to do. Take a look at how California does that. Many other states are similarly grouping the hospitalization numbers by city, county or region. That’s what the state should be looking at to decide where to focus its efforts, and that’s what the public needs to see.

As the new numbers come in daily, they also need to be displayed in some manner that shows trends.

Shouldn’t the federal government be collecting these numbers from hospitals, compiling and publishing them?

The Center for Disease Control does have its own pipeline for this information, which is very similar to that now in place for IDHP. On March 29, Vice President Michael Pence directed all hospitals to provide a daily report, the form for which is linked here. The federal government should have that information to make comparisons among states to quickly determine where the most help is needed.

On the other hand, the reality in practice is that publishing any data has been left to the states and most states I have looked at are doing a very good job of it. It’s just not that hard to do.

Why didn’t Illinois and the CDC coordinate this better? Who knows.

You can count this among many challenges raised by our federal system in this crisis, which accounts for so much of the squabbling. Let’s face it: Nobody thought through ahead of time what responsibilities in a crisis like this are for federal, state or local units of government. When the time comes to assess how to be better prepared next time, that matter will be key.

Lightfoot and Chicago need to get on the program.

We certainly appreciate that Chicago’s mayor has much on her plate, but she seems to be a few steps behind on this whole matter and out of touch with the numbers.

She has been talking repeatedly about a shortfall of 40,000 hospital beds just for Chicago. “Not 40,000 cases, but 40,000 people who require acute care in a hospital setting,” Lightfoot said. “That number will break our healthcare system… This will push our city to the brink.” But those numbers are silly — far out of line with the newly released numbers, which show the entire inventory of beds at about 28,000. And publicly available projections for hospitalizations say only about 9,300 hospital beds are expected to be needed when the virus peaks for all Illinois.

At Pritzker’s April 3 press conference, a question about hospitalization data went to Lightfoot. “We are still analyzing that data and will releasing that data as soon as it is appropriate,” she answered. Why did she duck that question entirely? Was she even aware of the new data already released by the state? Is she aware the CDC already collects it?

And WBEZ got some numbers on Chicago hospitals, before the new state data came out, but apparently had to use backchannels to get them. “The Chicago Department of Public Health did not respond to requests for comment, and has previously declined to disclose specific figures about beds and ventilators available.” That should all be simplified now and Chicago should be releasing numbers consistent with the hospital reports now going to IDPH.

Why have Chicago and the State of Illinois been slow to collect and publish these numbers?

We can only speculate.

The charitable answer would be that Pritzker, Lightfoot and others want to keep the public sufficiently alarmed to ensure they honor the social distancing rules. For that purpose, it might be better to highlight those scary, daily, new case numbers instead of other data.

And maybe they want to put the worst data forward for purposes of getting maximum help from the federal government. If that’s the motive, however, the constant shots at the Trump Administration are unwise, and stand in stark contrast to the more constructive approach taken by Democratic governors Newsom and Cuomo in California and New York.

The more cynical answer would be that maximum drama is best for political purposes. Or maybe that they simply erred by not focusing on the right numbers.

We leave you to speculate on other possibilities.

All we know is it’s good to now see more meaningful data finally flowing.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

Email directive from IDHP to all Illinois hospitals:

To: Illinois Hospitals
From: Public Health Emergency Operations Center
Date: April 2, 2020
Re: IMPORTANT: Change to EmResource COVID Query Questions
The Illinois Department of Public Health is further defining the variables in the current statewide COVID-19 Query in EMResource. At the same time, we will be discontinuing the laboratory and PPE requests for information. The new event will be launched by 10pm on April 2, 2020 and hospitals will be able to report this new information by the current reporting time of 10am on Friday April 3, 2020.
The following information will be requested daily at 10am and 6pm:
(please note the expired patients are only reported once daily at 10am)
COVID or PUI in non-ICU beds:
Definition: Number of COVID or PUI patients in non-ICU beds in the hospital. This includes all patients not designated as ICU status.
COVID Pts in ICU Status:
Definition: Total number of confirmed COVID-19 patients designated as ICU status regardless of location in the hospitals. This will include COVID pts that are ICU status holding in other areas such as PACU, ED, and surge ICU areas.
COVID Pts on Vents.

Data released April 3, 2020:

 

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Danni Smith
7 months ago

I just read this article as I try to understand why Dr. Terry Mason was fired. Within this article is sodagirl preck, saying a hospital’s emergency room was closed in order to study a better way to handle the influx of patients. That is non-sensical. But we have some facts finally, that toilet guy and lighthead have hidden from us until April 3, 2020, that there is no influx. Money is given to the states based upon cases. toilet guy is known for fleecing 100’s of millions from taxpayers. Go back and review what he did with his bank, the… Read more »

Mark Felt
7 months ago

The concept of an Excel spreadsheet is voodoo to Pritzker and beyond his comprehension. Also if he publishes numbers he has to take responsibility for them…..something Illinois politicians have been avoiding for generations.

Danni Smith
7 months ago

pritz is toilet guy to me. He is a criminal, a thief and a fraud. His election was not legit. To believe it was legit would be to believe people voted for this criminal. His theft from taxpayers in real estate taxes is preceded by his theft from taxpayers and depositors at failed Superior Bank. Know that his settlement with the FDIC only occurred because the Federal Government was going to proceed with charges against toilet guy and could have resulted in his imprisonment. And he was elected?? The FDIC was depleted, emptied of 330 million to cover the depositors… Read more »

DantheMan
7 months ago
Reply to  Danni Smith

Welcome to Illinois.

Sharon Johnson
7 months ago

The Republicans have been asking for these numbers for three weeks because the numbers Pritzker was giving were not adding up. I made a comment last Friday it was the first time we had heard any numbers. Many email have been sent to the Governors office about totals, first responders not having access to PPE’s or information about people who already tested positive and no response was received until Saturday night. Only then they back dated the memo to look like they were timely about it. I am all for supporting the Gov in times of crisis, however this guy… Read more »

MikeH
7 months ago

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-briefing-pritzker-stimulus-checks

The headline mentioned a “complaining governor”. I knew it was Jabba before I even clicked lithe title. So now we see what voting the social justice candidate gets us, both on the mayoral and gubernatorial front. A shame that very few who should learn from this will.

Freddy
7 months ago

There is mounting evidence that of the first signs of Covid-19 is Pink / red eye (viral conjunctivitis). Masks will help but you also need eye protected like goggles.

Jim
7 months ago

We also need the RECOVERED numbers they’ve been hiding.

Oldnurse
7 months ago

From day one I have wondered about the test criteria. Namely. test only those with a 99% chance of testing positive! Why? We KNOW they are sick! If those who seem well were tested, we would have a list if those who , as carriers, may spread the disease, Seems to me like much more useful information and perhaps a source of effective antibodies as well.

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  Oldnurse

The problem is that there are supercarriers that don’t show symptoms but are super infectious for weeks. Patient Zero in Wuhan (who was probably actually patient 200) was a super carrier that spread it everywhere and infected a lot of people.

Bob Out of Here
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

The number of people who carry it but show no symptoms should be the real cause for concern. Just because the person in front of you at Jewel isn’t hoarking up a lung doesn’t mean they don’t have it. It’s the silent carriers that are the real threat, which may explain the recommendation that everyone wear a mask. Look up Typhoid Mary on wikipedia, it’s fascinating. I didn’t realize there actually was such a person.

Downstate cynic
7 months ago
Reply to  Oldnurse

The problem is that the current test for viral RNA only is only 50- 70 % sensitive on a single sample. Sample quality varies by the skill of the sample taker, location of sample, type of transport media, and the in lab process of sample preparation before testing. When positive the test begins to decrease on day eight from onset of symptoms. While a test can remain positive for up to 34 days most clear in 14-21 days. Of patients with typical symptoms in a downstate regional system we are seeing only 5-8 % positivity. Of those 20 % are… Read more »

debtsor
7 months ago

2,049 non-ICU hospital admissions out of 10,357 cases is kind of a lot, if these numbers are true, and those admissions represent wuhan virus admissions that actually require care (as opposed to just observation). That’s 20% of people requiring hospitalization. I don’t know about you folks but I don’t want to play this new IL scratch and win lottery game, where I have a 1 in 5 chance of being hospitalized. What started out as a bad flu (and it is a bad flu) is transforming and mutating in a plague that would not only overwhelm hospitals but could be… Read more »

mebuono
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

However, Illinois does not offer testing on demand. Total case numbers are artificially low as we don’t have a clue as to how many people catch this and show few, if any, symptoms.

Fedupandpacking
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

Agreed Mark-anyone who has taken a class on how test and polls can be skewed know this. The sham of it all is that while I look on the IDPH site which shows # of cases tested per day in Illinois. I find it suspect now as JB has been testing over 10,000 per day since about 3/25 per their own data. Wasn’t he just the other day saying he wants to get to 10,000 per day? Something smells very funny. I wish someone could go back thru the pressers each day to find that question being asked and using… Read more »

debtsor
7 months ago

The thing is that it’s not clear if there are large numbers of cases hiding in plain sight. Right now the data shows that most, the overwhelming majority, of people who show up for the test, don’t actually have wuhan virus. They have other respiratory or intestinal issues but not coronavirus (assuming that the test is fairly accurate and doesn’t give a ridiculous number of false negatives). it’s possible that a less virulent form spread in the community back in December and January and those that recovered in the past have no need to be tested today. But based on… Read more »

Fedupandpacking
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

I think at this point the only data that needs to be compiled is the admit rate to the hospitals. That is a more accurate measure. Side note is that when my mom was in the hosptial with an acquired Elizabethkingia infection of the lung that she received from a rehab hospital (while on a vent as she had a tracheotomy) I asked Advocate Hospital if they had contacted the rehab facility and the CDC as this was an infectious disease. I was looked at as I had two heads (this is required reporting) I called the rehab facility myself… Read more »

debtsor
7 months ago

I want all the data, but the admit rate is one of the most important component of all the data.

debtsor
7 months ago

There are multiple different agencies testing – private labs and doctors, the federal government, the state. All reported as different times and speeds.

Danni Smith
7 months ago

only pre-reviewed questions to toilet guy or lighthead allowed. POTUS is william wallace compared to toilet and light ostrichs

Jan S
7 months ago

The number of confirmed covi19 cases in Illinois on 4/4/2020 is 10,357. Based on this artical total Covid in hospitals is 2,984. That is roughly 30%. The “expert” Casten had on his virtual-townhall had said about 80% recouperate at home (assuming I heard that right – hmmm).
I’m wondering if covid-19 has been around longer than they thought, with many mild cases going un-diagnosed.

Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Jan S

Although it wasnt known and cannot yet be proven. I myself came down with a most severe type of upper resp and flu with Shortness of breath, muscle ache, excruciating dry cough the week before Thanksgiving after attending an indoor large event in Rosemont. and it stayed until after New Years Day. Clinics and my regular doc just said it was a virus. Steroids, codeine syrup, antibiotics and inhalers had no effect on it. It ran its course. MANY people have said the very same thing. After a well visit a couple weeks ago I asked my doc and her… Read more »

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Thanksgiving is pretty early to catch the wuhan virus. I myself think I may have caught it in early February. My cough was pretty bad too, 103 fever, the whole shabang.

Scott Salomonson
7 months ago

Pritzger is a joke. The article points out his administrations deficiencies in collecting data. Important data for the country. Yet he toots his own horn.
He is what he is. A toilet removing, tax dodger,

It would be nice if the Springfield State Journal Register would be up to the task of reporting on things like this.

Danni Smith
7 months ago

my 2 inch thick file on Superior Bank failure shows what a horrible person he is. He should be in prison for his massive theft from people 100’s of millions.

DantheMan
7 months ago

A gov named Pritzker and mayor named Lightfoot. Do they instill confidence? Your neighbors thought they should be your leaders. (Maybe you did too.) The core problem with Illinois is not it’s leaders. It’s it people. It’s either ignorance or stupidity. Stupidity can’t be fixed. Wirepoints alone can’t fix ignorance, and larger media outlets aren’t likely to help, so ignorance is basically a permanent condition for the majority in Illinois. You however are here. You are not ignorant. I’ll assume you are not stupid. If you decide to stay, I’ll also assume your own personal pros outweigh the cons. Still,… Read more »

Mike C
7 months ago

“She has been talking repeatedly about a shortfall of 40,000 hospital beds just for Chicago. “Not 40,000 cases, but 40,000 people who require acute care in a hospital setting,” Lightfoot said. “That number will break our healthcare system… This will push our city to the brink.” But those numbers are silly — far out of line with the newly released numbers, which show the entire inventory of beds at about 28,000. And publicly available projections for hospitalizations say only about 9,300 hospital beds are expected to be needed when the virus peaks for all Illinois.” You both can’t be right,… Read more »

Penny Pippin
7 months ago

Thank you, Mr. Wilhour!! Keep in their butt!!
Make Illinois Great Again!!

Kathleen Harty
7 months ago

Excellent reporting. Thank you

Christine Stout
7 months ago

States get money from the federal govt based on numbers of patients they “confirm” as having covid19, but they never state HOW they confirm that. It is high time that journalists start pressing for how those “cases” were confirmed: by lab test or by “consistency or symptoms.” The press also needs to report on how the numbers of covid19 deaths are determined: did people die from covid19 itself, or did they die because covid19 complicated an underlying condition, or were covid19 and another condition just conflated for the purpose of increasing the case numbers? Good start – keep asking questions.… Read more »

Platinum Goose
7 months ago

That explains why the governors were begging for more testing, more people tested, more confirmed cases, more federal aid.

chumpchange
7 months ago

Keep up the good work, Wirepoints!

7 months ago

The hysteria given the data is not justified. Pritzker is showing you EXACTLY how followers act when they are in charge. What a pitiful performance. He’s also showing you the difference between someone that inherited wealth or earned it. People who earn a billion dollars do not act or lead like Pritzker.

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

The same people who want nationalized health care, like Jabba and his progressive friends, are the same people who are massively screwing up the response to the wuhan virus. Yet they want us to believe that they won’t screw up our health care just as they have bungled up their response to the wuhan virus.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Bill
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Good that better data is flowing. There’s blame to apportion all around but the lions share for this Catastrophe lies at the feet of Donald J Trump and his enablers. He squandered 70 days of runway. We can see the situation in New York. If JBs numbers are inflated, that will ultimately cost only economically but not in terms of life. In my family we have an ER nurse who got dosed the first day their hospital had 4 Covid patients. Her husband got it. After 8 days at home she was hospitalized and has been fighting for her life… Read more »

DantheMan
7 months ago
Reply to  Bill

Seriously? Trump? How about getting a clue and focusing that anger on China….. or is that racist?

Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Bill

Im confused. Did China even let us know what was happening 70 days ago ? He stopped flights from China immediately and began the task of dealing with this here. I have a daughter in the ER so I am praying it doesnt get To her. Im sorry you’re family has to go thru this.

Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Great time to have a learn on the job mayor and a learn on the job governor. Neither are up to the task. Neither are surrounded by the best and the brightest.

Old Spartan
7 months ago

Just watched Pritzker once again blame the federal govt at least five times at his Saturday briefing. Gave no credit whatsoever to anyone but himself for the miraculously quick opening of the McCormick Pl hospital, which of course he had nothing to do with. Re these hospital stats, obviously IDPH was not prepared to collect and reveal them. Just like IDES which had an inoperable Unemployment Insurance application website for three weeks, which just started operating–even with delays– today. And where are the revenue loss estimates from both the City and the State which should have been estimated before the… Read more »

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  Old Spartan

February 28: “While the risk to the general public remains low, we want you to know that our state and local agencies and officials are using every tool at our disposal to ensure the public health and safety are well-guarded,” Pritzker said at the Chicago news conference. “We’re ready to put the full weight of the state behind a full-fledged response when needed if we meet those thresholds,” Pritzker said. “This is a situation that has demonstrated an ability to evolve rapidly. And it’s my priority that as the information changes, that you will have all of the available information… Read more »

chumpchange
7 months ago
Reply to  Old Spartan

The photo says it all. True leaders.