By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner
You can understand why Illinois downstaters continue to resent the top-down COVID-19 recovery rules imposed by Gov. J.B Pritzker. The coronavirus downstate (Illinois less Cook and the Collar counties) never developed into a general public crisis like it did in Chicago, yet more than 90 counties outside Cook and the Collar counties suffered heavy-handed lockdowns for several months, far longer than the government’s own numbers said they should have. Now Gov. J.B. Pritzker is threatening some of those counties with renewed coronavirus restrictions.
The real problem downstate is, and continues to be, the failure of the state to protect nursing home residents. That’s where the large majority of deaths have come from and where the real focus from the governor needs to be.
A new analysis shows that between 68 to 73 percent of COVID-19 deaths downstate are tied to nursing homes. Virus deaths there totaled 1,101 as of August 21. Of those, between 750 and 800 have been tied to retirement homes.*
Despite late April media reports that drew more scrutiny to Illinois’ spiking retirement home deaths, their share of total deaths have continued to grow. In early May, Wirepoints reported that 59 percent of all downstate deaths were retirement-home related. Since then, virus-related retirement home deaths downstate have continued to outpace general public COVID-19 deaths at a rate of at least 2.5 to 1.
Look at the map below to see just how downstate has been impacted by COVID-19. Half of Illinois counties have suffered just three deaths or less after six months of COVID, with 28 counties still experiencing zero deaths.
And of the counties that have experienced significant outbreaks, in most cases retirement homes residents make up the overwhelming percentage of deaths.
Regardless of what the governor may say, the successful protection of retirement home residents is still a problem. Just last week, The Belleville-News Democrat reported that nursing home cases are on the rise again in southwestern Illinois.
Retirement home deaths in Illinois continue to be a tragedy. Better protection of retirement homes, and not business shut-downs, should be the focus downstate.
*There is a discrepancy of 53 deaths between the total number of retirement home deaths reported by IDPH and a county-by-county roll-up of the data as provided by the agency. If all 53 missing deaths are assigned to Cook and the Collar counties, then the share of retirement home deaths downstate equals 68 percent off all downstate COVID-19 deaths. If all missing deaths are attributed to downstate, then the share of downstate retirement home deaths totals 73 percent of all downstate deaths.
Read more about the impact of COVID-19 on Illinois:
- Questions and problems grow over Illinois’ handling of retirement homes
- Ignore Illinois cases, positivity and focus on hospitalizations, deaths
- The facts support in-person learning for most Illinois schools.
- Illinois Media and the State Should Immediately Update the Message on Hydroxychloroquine
- COVID-19 spreads to half of all Chicagoland retirement homes. How did this happen?