By: Mark Glennon*
Rich Miller of Capitol Fax didn’t like my recent article, Unacceptable: Illinois and Certain Other States Not Releasing COVID-19 Hospitalization Numbers. It lays out why hospitalization numbers on COVID-19 are key and why states that aren’t providing them, including Illinois, should be.
That makes me a “covidiot,” he says, and he wrote,
The overall numbers track everywhere. So even without hospitalization numbers, we have a pretty good idea from looking at other countries and other states what they likely are here. In other words, despite what “Dr.” Glennon and his ilk say, we don’t actually need hospitalization numbers to see how bad things are. What they instead appear to be doing is sowing doubt among the populace. There’s more than enough misinformation and panic out there already without trying to manufacture something out of thin air.
That’s deeply irresponsible and dishonest.
My article, which Miller did not link to or attempt to honestly summarize, makes a point now being widely expressed; If anything I should be criticized for not being original. That point is that the response to COVID-19 must be precise and precision requires focus on the right data, which should include hospitalization information. ProPublica, a center-left operation, wrote essentially the same thing and called on reporters nationwide to try to find the data in states like Illinois that aren’t giving it.
ProPublica quoted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who, when he briefs the media and the public about the status of the coronavirus pandemic in his state, pays particular attention to two numbers: How many patients with COVID-19 are in the hospital and how many require intensive care. “That is the number we watch because that’s the number that are flowing into the health care system,” Cuomo said on March 18, adding that 549 patients were in the hospital as of that morning.
Cuomo is right to do that because resources obviously are in short supply and they have to be deployed as rationally as possible, which was precisely the point of my article. Cuomo has made the case why New York needs special attention, which it is getting.
See the rest of my article for other reasons why hospitalization numbers are more important than the widely reported numbers of new cases. Many other articles across the world, from all different political perspectives, have said essentially the same thing.
As I said in my article, hospitalizations “will be an essential number in deciding when to loosen the emergency shutdown of so much of our economy. If we do that later than necessary the economic disaster will be worse than it need be; do it too early and the human disaster will be worse. We will be driving blindfolded if we make that decision without hospitalization numbers.”
I don’t think anybody debating the data issues is playing doctor — not ProPublica, me or any of countless others who have written about it, including Miller who is obviously doing the same. Wirepoints is trying to identify the most meaningful data, which have been a god-awful mess since the COVID-19 crisis started.
And if requesting hospitalization numbers makes somebody a covidiot, Miller himself said he wants them, so what the heck? “Look, I’d like to have the numbers, too, and I’ve asked for them,” he wrote.
As for Miller’s claim that my purpose was to sow doubt, my article couldn’t have been more clear: “None of this is meant to imply that current levels of social distancing and shutdowns are too harsh or too lenient. It’s just that policy should be informed by facts — facts we don’t have.”
He ignored what else I have written on this, such as, “I think the restraints in place are about right in light of the very dire projections for those numbers, but I am not surprised by the skepticism and I am keeping an open mind about the right policy.”
And I posted this comment earlier in the Top News on our homepage:
But you won’t see those things in Capitol Fax and his comment section. There, he routinely screens out comments that don’t fit his story line, with only a few exceptions he uses to cite as cover. If he didn’t do so, his site would be as overrun with comments questioning the political establishment, especially its numbers, as you see in Wirepoints.
What Miller doesn’t understand is that doubt wouldn’t be sown about Illinois government numbers if we had a history of getting honest numbers.
We don’t have that history, and Rich Miller isn’t helping.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.
UPDATE: Governor Pritzker was asked in his daily briefing on Friday when Illinois will provide hospitalization numbers like New York and other states do. He said they have been talking to hospitals and collecting that data piecemeal but they will be “will be working on it this weekend.” Props for being responsive.
And Rich Miller has so far blocked our response in his comment section.
It’s important to note that the hospitalization information may well indicate things are even more dire than the other data. Information about one hospital we have obtained is indeed extremely severe.