By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

A look at Illinois’ deadliest day since the start of the second COVID wave suggests state officials should re-dedicate their efforts and resources to protecting the elderly and infirm, and not the general public. A deeper dive into retirement home deaths, comorbidities and fatality rates makes the case for that change even more convincing.

On Nov. 17, Illinois officials reported 168 deaths due to COVID. Ninety-three percent of the victims were older than 60 and the average age of all fatalities that day was about 80. Sadly, the number of those over the age of 80 totaled 94.

In contrast, just three COVID victims that day were under the age of 50.

A look at the month of November so far yields similar results: 91 percent of all COVID deaths were aged 60 or older.

Illinois’ policy of general lockdowns and school closures is clearly upside down compared to who is actually at risk.

Failing to protect retirement homes

It’s clear that the state’s mitigation efforts have failed to protect Illinois’ elderly. That fact becomes even more obvious when nursing and retirement home data is examined.

COVID-19 deaths tied to the narrow demographic of retirement home residents continue to dominate the state’s mortality records. Even during “good” weeks, retirement home deaths still account for about a third of all state COVID deaths. But half is still a common occurrence. Of the 425 COVID deaths that occurred during the week of Nov. 13, 56 percent, or 238, were linked to retirement homes. 

Illinois is now nine months into the pandemic. Those results are inexcusable. 

In all, 51 percent of all Illinois deaths since the start of the pandemic have been tied to Long Term Care Facilities (LTCs). That’s a total of nearly 5,800 deaths. And outside of Cook and the collar counties, LTC deaths make up about 60 percent of total COVID-19 fatalities.

Even in counties with serious outbreaks, the impact of COVID deaths has often been largely confined to retirement homes. Downstate counties like Madison, Peoria and St. Clair have had two-thirds or more of their deaths occur in LTCs.

Illinois’ attempt to protect Long-Term Care facilities has been botched from the beginning. Wirepoints’ documented the state’s failures in COVID-19 spreads to half of all Chicagoland retirement homes. How did this happen? and Questions and problems grow over Illinois’ handling of retirement homes

The Tribune covered the state’s failures in its in-depth report: Illinois nursing home complaints not investigated for more than 3 months amid pandemic that killed thousands of residents.

Despite the state’s claims to the contrary, the numbers show there has been little improvement.

The problem of comorbidities

Another reason for the state to hyper-focus on the elderly and the infirm: the high correlation between COVID fatalities and comorbidities. The CDC says 94 percent of all COVID deaths nationally had pre-existing conditions., including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc. Each death has had an average of 2.6 underlying causes. 

Unfortunately, state officials continue to keep Illinoisans in the dark about COVID and comorbidities. It’s a major failure. Every Illinoisan should have access to that information so that they can make their own calculations about how to maneuver around the virus.

The only comorbidity data available in Illinois is in the Cook County Medical Examiner’s database of deaths. The data is not published, so Wirepoints periodically scrapes the county data and we post it on our daily COVID page. If it wasn’t for that file, Illinoisans would have nothing from its government on the impact of pre-existing conditions on COVID-19.

Cook County’s data shows 91 percent of primary COVID deaths had some form of preexisting condition. For victims 80 and above, comorbidities were almost universal.

However, the data also shows comorbidities were a significant factor for those middle-aged Illinoisans who succumbed to COVID. At least three-quarters of all deaths for ages 20-59 in Cook County had underlying causes.

The state should do all it can to help the most infirm Illinoisans assess their level of risk from COVID. It can start by actually publishing statewide data on comorbidities.

The elderly’s Case Fatality Rate

Illinois officials must focus far more on the elderly simply because the virus is much more deadly for them. 

Take the two extremes in age brackets. For those ages 80 and higher, the crude case fatality rate (deaths divided by cases) in Illinois is at nearly 20 percent. Of the 27,717 reported cases since the inception of the virus, 5,422 have fallen victim to COVID. Contrast that to those under the age of 20, whose crude case fatality rate is at just 0.009%. Of the nearly 93,000 cases of COVID for those under 20, there have been a total of just 8 deaths.

The case fatality rates for all age brackets are shown below. With nine months of COVID data behind us, there’s just no comparison in the risk shared between younger and older Illinoisans.

The strategy of shutting much of the state down – from lockdowns to school closings – has done far more harm than good, in part because it’s taken health officials’ eyes off of the elderly and the infirm.

Instead of defending lockdowns, the state should finally change course and invest in more protection of Illinois’ vulnerable demographics.

Read more about Illinois and the COVID crisis:

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1 month ago

The SCOTUS ruling late last night against the state of New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo barring the state from reimposing limits on religious gatherings means our Governor has also been unlawful since March 2020.

This ruling is a game changer. SCOTUS is now standing up for the Constitution. Our rights.

Our Governor should be recalled. He will also lose in a landslide in 2022.

1 month ago
Reply to  Wolfnight

Question: how will scotus enforce this? Kinda reminds me of Andrew Jackson’s bank war.

Chase Gioberti
1 month ago
Reply to  Wolfnight

Please don’t take this as an endorsement of Jabba but no way will he lose, much less by a landslide in 2022.

Who could possibly beat him on the Republican side?

Have you forgotten how degenerate this state is?

He will probably increase his margin of victory, just like his waistline.

This is a permanent one party state.

Last edited 1 month ago by Chase Gioberti
Ken Cooley
1 month ago

Quarantine the sick not the healthy. NO lockdown works, ever.
This was a Dry Run for socialism and control of the masses this was never
about health.

1 month ago

LTCF data doesn’t mean much unless we know the all-cause death rate for this year and prior years. I’m not sure there is as much “excess” in these facilities as we suspect.

One who knows
1 month ago

The state of Illinois should get out of the healthcare business as they continuously fail dismally at it. 

1 month ago

I agree, but tell it to Dr. Death, Zeke Emanuel, who is on Biden’s COVID advisory group. He thinks those 75 and older should be last in line for a vaccine because their lives are no longer meaningful. It makes me start to wonder if Cuomo’s nursing home blunder in New York, (he ordered COVID stricken elderly people into nursing homes that could not properly care for them; they died and so did a lot of the residents) was really a mistake.

Leonard Palmer
1 month ago

Most rational people have felt this way for months. Unfortunately, the rational people are not in charge.

Last edited 1 month ago by Leonard Palmer
1 month ago

Asking questions are truly good thing if you are not understanding
anything fully, except this paragraph presents nice understanding even.

George McFly
1 month ago

The article does not address how hospitals and it’s staff should deal with surge capacity. Is the author ok with hospitals running out of beds and/or lack of personal?

1 month ago
Reply to  George McFly

Mcfly, No, I am not ok with running out of hospitals/staff. In fact, I went on record in late March that I am ok with overinvesting in hospitals as an insurance policy to keeping our economy open. What I am shocked at is the fact that little has been done to build new capacity since the first wave. I am amazed that our ICU and overall bed supply has been essentially flat since then (see the daily data here)

Last edited 1 month ago by John Klingner
1 month ago
Reply to  Ted Dabrowski

Without doing a lot of past reading wasn’t there recently an article here about a facility that was opened then closed for lack of use?

1 month ago
Reply to  George McFly

Properly targeting containment efforts to those who are truly at risk would reduce, not increase, pressure on hospital staffing resources.

1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

Sanatorium model would have been wise and relatively cheap.

1 month ago
Reply to  George McFly

In the best of times, nursing homes are “understaffed ” by subjective standards. Also, they are prone to infections sweeping throughout facility ( shingles, UTIs). With COVID-19, infection precautions raise need for additional staffing, due to extra time needed between rooms to don and doff PPEs, deliver meals to rooms if communal dining is canceled, and additionally clean surfaces. Most of COVID-19 care is not complex, it is mostly watchful waiting and supplemental O2 if indicated. If oxygen saturation drops drastically, or certain serum testing indicates, the resident is sent to hospital. If DNR, treatment is as it would be… Read more »

1 month ago

Great writing. Also from the trib articale from the 21st, the states mysteriously sitting on its own commissioned report of idph handling of long term care facilities–“The experience fueled debate over the IDPH’s oversight of a mostly for-profit industry, during which the Tribune found it cut back inspections, at times breaking state law, as the virus raced through facilities. IDPH forced out two top administrators and announced it had hired a consulting firm to conduct a “top to bottom review” of its oversight practices. That was four months ago. The Tribune filed a public records request Sept. 4 to obtain any reports from the… Read more »

1 month ago

Thank you for putting this information out there. No excuse any more, the public health officials and politicians must own this failure! Instead they talk about solutions that will not do any good (contact tracing), but will give them patronage jobs to give out. Not to mention the power trip of executive orders. Beyond disgusting!!

Fed up neighbor
1 month ago

Pritzker and Ezike need to be sued by all family’s with seniors in nursing homes and long term care facilities. These two individual’s new what was going down, it’s part of the plandemic. Someone will make examples out of both of you?

1 month ago

Don’t know if jb, ezike or idph can be sued, but remember when covid was just starting up jb/state mysteriously passed legislation protecting long term care facilities from law suites. As well as canceling the just passed “minimum staffing” legislation.