By: Ted Dabrowski
Updated information from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME, shows that Illinois has already passed its peak resource needs for hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators.
IHME, which now says Illinois’ resource needs peaked on April 3, previously expected the peak to be reached on April 16.* IHME also significantly reduced its COVID-19 death projections for Illinois over the next few months.
The Gates Foundation-funded IHME is one of the sources Gov. J.B. Pritzker has used to determine his health, shutdown and stay-at-home executive orders over the past month. The governor says he uses other models as well, but he has yet to reveal those other sources and how precisely they impact his administration’s decision making. He was asked expressly, at his daily briefing on April 10, to share the models and methods he is relying on, but again ducked the request.
Illinois now has far more hospital resources than it needs, according to the latest reported IHME projections. That’s true even for IHME’s worst-case scenarios, based on the most recent hospital resource data reported by the state. IHME’s projected resource needs for Illinois and many other states have dropped dramatically in recent days, reportedly due to the strict social distancing actions implemented in most parts of the country.
Many groups originally criticized IHME’s initial projections as too pessimistic, while others now claim that as the group lowers its death and resource-need projections, it’s understating the risks going forward. Gov. Pritzker responded to the IHME news this way: “The models that show the death rate might be lower than expected… gives me optimism,” he said. “There are equal models out there that show something different. We look at multiple models. When I see that the IHME changed its numbers I of course go back to the models and ask the question, ‘What changed? Why did they make a change?’ Sometimes there are good explanations like they’re in agreement with one another and sometimes there are not good explanations.”
IHME projected resource needs drop significantly
The below chart compares Illinois’ current COVID-19 bed, ICU and ventilator resources to IHME’s worst-case needs in the next few weeks. Illinois has significantly more overall resources than it needs relative to IHME’s April 10 projections.* (Of course, some hospitals do have real PPE and other resource shortages, a logistical challenge the state must meet.)
As IHME’s projected resource needs have collapsed, so, too, have COVID-19 death estimates. Just over a week ago, IHME predicted a worst-case scenario of nearly 15,000 Illinois deaths through August. Its most recent projections, made on April 10, drops that worst-case scenario to 1,400 deaths (Appendix 1). Illinois’ reported death toll from the COVID-19 reached 596 on April 10, when 68 new deaths were announced.
Similar positive news nationally has led President Trump to talk of potentially opening up parts of the economy as early as May 1. The president is creating a second coronavirus task force focused on the economy. States like Ohio and cities like Dallas are also creating similar task forces focused on their economies.
Gov. Pritzker, however, has not made any similar announcements in preparation for an eventual reopening of the economy. Illinois has reported a spike in unemployment benefit claims over the past three weeks, with more than 500,000 residents requesting relief.
And under one scenario from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, unemployment in Illinois may reach a high of 2 million in the second quarter. Interwoven with economic decline are drug abuse, depression, domestic violence and deepening poverty that destroy families. All that can’t be ignored.
As the curve flattens and the economic damage grows, the question of when the economy will reopen will be raised more and more. That means Pritzker won’t be able to keep shrugging off questions about the models and the data he’s using to make the state’s big health and economic decisions. His unwillingness to be transparent about the data is something public won’t accept much longer.
*Wirepoints will address the shortcomings of the IHME’s latest projections in a forthcoming piece.
Read more about the impact of the Coronavirus on Illinois:
- The COVID-19 crisis: It’s time to move past the public health vs. economy argument
- Illinois’ near-insolvent unemployment trust fund can’t handle surge in unemployment claims, will need to tap federal loans
- Illinois Finally Starts Collecting Key Coronavirus Hospitalization Info.
- Coronavirus impact may push Illinois state pension debt to over $300 billion
- Don’t Let States Rob COVID-19 Funds to Bail Out Pensions
- Bad Public Pension Bailout Ideas Now Surfacing
- State of Illinois provides first look at possible revenue impact from downturn
- Will Recession Revive Discussion of Municipal Bankruptcy and Bankruptcy-for-States?