By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner
It only takes a glance at Illinois’ statewide COVID-19 data to realize what a big difference there is between Chicagoland and the rest of the state.
COVID-19 deaths in Illinois are heavily concentrated in the Cook and collar counties, where more than 2,200 lives had been lost as of May 1st. In contrast, much of the rest of the state has been largely spared. More than half of the state’s counties have zero deaths.
Yes, Pritzker made some concessions to separate the state into four regions, but the problem with his plans is more fundamental than that.
The governor continues to impose a top-down lockdown strategy that makes no sense for most areas of the state. Some of his required conditions risk Illinois being shut down for an impossible length of time.
Individual counties and their respective health departments should be ready to set their own policies, suited to the particular risks and situations of their own communities. That’s particularly true now that the curve in Illinois has been flattened and the original emergency order has expired.
So what makes the rest of Illinois so different from the Chicago area?
Start with the fact that 58 of the state’s 102 counties had zero deaths as of May 1, 2020. Another 16 counties had just one death each.
The reality is the population density in much of the state is just a fraction of what it is in Chicagoland. There are 45 counties in Illinois with less than 20,000 residents each. Social distancing is a much more normal phenomenon when there are just 34 residents per square mile, like in Putnam County, than in Cook County, where there are 5,500 residents per square mile density in Cook County.
Another key fact is that 122 of the 222 deaths outside of the Cook and collar counties were tied to nursing homes, according to official state health data. That’s 55 percent. In some counties like Macon, Monroe, Jackson and Jasper, 100 percent of their combined 37 deaths were from long-term facilities.
What all that means is that the COVID-19 situation is very different for Chicagoland residents than for those in the rest of the state. Of course, there are a few exceptions in some higher density, lower income communities such as in St. Clair County.
None of this is to imply that residents should be any less vigilant about preventing COVID-19 – the fact that so many deaths have occurred in retirement homes should mean hyper-vigilance in protecting those demographics most at risk.
As we’ve written before, shutdowns have negative consequences of their own, too. Lives and livelihoods are at risk. To prevent those negative outcomes as much as possible, areas outside of Chicagoland should begin to sensibly open up on their own terms.
Read more on the impact of COVID-19 on Illinois:
- April State of Illinois Revenues Tank, Special Funds Raided
- JP Morgan’s Cembalest: COVID-19 shutdown drives Illinois’ true retirement costs to 60 percent of budget
- COVID-19: Seven facts that tell us Illinoisans can and must get back to work
- COVID-19 pushes nation’s weakest pension plans closer to the brink: A 50-state survey
- Open Illinois’ economy: Recessions and depressions kill
- Reopen the Economy While Protecting Those at Risk or Face Another Great Depression
- Illinois Senate Democrats Seek Massive Federal Bailout for State, Going Far Beyond Coronavirus Impact