Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Some new numbers for you!

Back in 2005, my very first newspaper managing editor warned me it would be quite the amazing accomplishment if I ever managed to get ten people to agree the sky is blue. Nine of ‘em maybe, but that unanimous verdict seemingly supporting the blatantly obvious was an even bigger pipe dream than the Cubs signing me to play centerfield.

And I never truly realized the depth and magnitude of this postulate until I set my opinions aside to cover the coronavirus!

Facts Not Fear 4

It’s not that I have a propensity to focus on folly, but it’s beyond baffling that at least one reader argues about or dismisses my seventh-grade math on a daily basis. So now, per my former boss, I’m wondering if I can get ten people to agree that two plus two is four!

In that very regard, to dispense with another arithmetic flight of fancy, a reader recently insisted Illinois would see at least 100,000 COVID-19 cases before it’s over. But for that to happen, we’d have to persist in our 1,000 daily new coronavirus case ten-day average for the next 87 days! And that’s a particularly tall order when the majority of epidemiology experts are predicting a mid-April pandemic peak.

Put more simply, unless something drastic changes our steadily decelerating COVID-19 trend, 100k infected Illinoisans is a statistical impossibility.

Then there are the folks who accuse me of painting such a rosy picture that my readers will summarily shuck their clothing to engage in the kind vernal equinox fertility festival that would make our pagan brothers and sisters blush.

But the truth is, with the exception of a suggested coronavirus countermeasure paradigm shift possibility, my paintbrush has been silently sitting on the easel since March 19th. Again, all I’m doing is applying basic math and letting the numbers speak for themselves.

It would be a blast if I could remember all those Loyola University standard deviation equations, but I barely remember what I cooked for dinner last night so that ain’t about to happen.

The bottom line is the Land of Lincoln news is good, and trust me, if the converse held sway, you’d be the first to know! Meanwhile, since I have much better things to do, I will no longer debate math or argue my intent here. Y’all already know just how much I love blocking “meatheads”, as defined by the great Archie Bunker, so don’t tempt me!

Moving on! Here’s our ever-enlarging table:

Date   Cases   % Increase N Cases  N Tested  Prevalence    Deaths 

3/18     288

3/19     422               46.5           134                           1 in 14

3/20     585               37              163                           1 in 12

3/21     753               29              296                           1 in 7

3/22     1,049            39              896                           1 in 2

3/23     1,285            28              236                           1 in 8

3/24     1,535            22.5           250                           1 in 8

3/25     1,855            21.5           320                           1 in 6

3/26     2,538            37              683                           1 in 6

3/27     3,026            19              488                           1 in 8

3/28     3,491            15.4           465                           1 in 8

3/29     4,596            31.6        1,105                           1 in 4                65

3/30     5,056            10              460           2,684       1 in 6               72

3/31     5,994            18.5           938           4,779       1 in 5               90

4/1       6,980            16.5           986           5,159       1 in 5             141

4/2       7,695            10.2           715           3,272       1 in 4.6          157

4/3       8,904            15.7        1,209           4,392       1 in 3.6          210

4/4     10,357            16           1,456           5,533       1 in 4             243

4/5     11,256            8.6             899           5,402       1 in 6             274

4/6     12,262            9             1,006           3,959       1 in 4             307

4/7     13,549            10.5        1,287           5,790       1 in 4.5          380

We’ve tested a total of 68,732 Illinoisans, the prevalence backed off to 1 in 4.5, and our mortality rate jumped to 2.8 percent.

But our best future infection indicator, the daily percentage new case increase, essentially stood pat at 10.5. And particularly true in light of our massive 46 percent testing hike! Those 5,790 Tuesday test results were a new Illinois record.

Better yet, since were still slouching toward that April 15 COVID-19 peak, yesterday’s flat 24-hour percent increase is beyond statistically significant. We should be seeing more new cases as we head into the eye of the pandemic hurricane.

Let’s move on to the new data! Some of you have asked if Illinois hospitalization stats were available, and wouldn’t you know it, one of my favorite Springfield sources reached out with all the details. As of yesterday:

2,709   Total ICU beds

1,760   ICU beds occupied

1,166   ICU beds occupied by COVID patients

949   Available ICU beds

 

2,791   Total ventilators

1,198   Ventilators being used

821   Ventilators used by COVID patients

1,593   Ventilators available

 

28,139 Total non-ICU hospital beds

16,146 Occupied non-ICU beds

2,514 Non-ICU beds occupied by COVID patients

11,993 Available non-ICU beds

3,680 COVID patients currently hospitalized

The truly magnificent thing about these revelations are they’re the clearest indication of where we are in the coronavirus campaign. They come directly from the hospitals, so there’s no lagging element, there’s no testing margin of error, and there’s no hidden coronavirus cases involved.

The fact that were not nearly at medical capacity is yet another significant signal that only reinforces our downward disease trend. And these stats don’t include all the temporary hospital facilities recently installed as a safeguard, either!

As it stands right now, every single Illinois statistic points to, not just flattening, but kicking the coronavirus curve’s ass. Beyond any bewildering bent to assassinate him, the messenger (me) is utterly immaterial here. Unless they’re unduly manipulated, the numbers don’t lie.

All that said, if we let our social-distancing guard down now, the early days of the disease doubling every day will come back to bite us in the butt faster than a not-quite-vanquished-end-of-movie Bond villain henchman.

So, let’s keep up the good work!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Another good day!

It drives me nuts when the Chicago papers print stories plastered with headlines like “As cases surge…,” “Number of deaths continue to rise…,” and then they insist on engaging a morbid coronavirus death countdown.

Then the Sun-Times ran the masthead, “Mayor’s ‘Red Alarm;’ 72 percent of corona deaths in city are African-American; Lightfoot vows to bridge gap.” Yikes! That makes it sound like she wants to increase the number of Caucasian deaths to bring those racial numbers in line!”

Some editor really blew that one!

But the truth is, Illinois cases are NOT surging, they’re leveling off!

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the coronavirus has a R0 (R-naught) of 2.3, which means, left unchecked, every sufferer will infect 2.3 more people. To put that in perspective the average flu R0 is just 1.3. So, if we take the average COVID-19 incubation period of six days by looking back to March 31, our 938 cases could’ve snowballed into 2,158 new April 6 cases – more than double the actual 1006 number.

Facts Not Fear 3

As for the mortality rate, if you consider the mounting evidence that up to 50 percent of virus carriers are asymptomatic with no reason to be tested, with no social distancing effort, the April 6 daily case total could’ve easily topped 4,000.

So, no! The disease is NOT “surging.”

And speaking of asymptomatic folks, if they really do exist – and I believe they do, their added numbers would cut the Illinois mortality rate in half to 1.25 percent, or 1 in 75. To put that in perspective, the odd of dying of a chronic respiratory disease over the course of your lifetime are 1 in 26.

I know this is a small solace to people who’ve lost loved ones, but those are pretty good survival odds. So, the papers persistence in blaring this relatively small death toll only serves to unnecessarily terrify people at a time when chronic fear makes them more susceptible to the disease.

We all know what the Sun-Times really meant by “bridge the gap.” Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago Health Commissioner want to swiftly determine the cause of an abundantly clear racial death disparity. But when Chicago’s already addressing that troublesome imbalance, those headlines do nothing but sow yet more fear.

The truth is, between 97.5 and 98.75 percent of Illinoisans survive the disease, and 99 percent of those who’ve perished had some sort of serious preexisting condition.

Though it’s beyond gratifying to see how many of you have come to understand this critical difference, but for those steadfast doubters, I’ll say it again! The true measure of a pandemic is the rate at which the disease spreads, not the number of new or total cases.

Think about it! New cases can be immensely affected by:

  • The number of tests performed or not performed
  • The test return lag time
  • Improved testing accuracy and/or return time
  • The testing patterns – who’s being tested
  • The point where we sit on the coronavirus curve

Ah! But the percentage daily case increase, particularly when it’s part of a discernable trend, is a much better measure of what’s to come.

To wit, going back to our earlier reports, The First Ward was among the first news sources to predict that Illinois was getting a handle on the disease. Considering that base 2.3 R0, any day that coronavirus cases haven’t doubled or, God forbid, skyrocketed 230 percent, is a good day!

Now we’re starting to see those larger “compound interest” dividends we talked about in those much earlier columns!

With all that out of the way, let’s get back to our table:

Date   Cases   % Increase N Cases  N Tested    Prevalence   Deaths 

3/18     288

3/19     422               46.5           134                           1 in 14

3/20     585               37              163                           1 in 12

3/21     753               29              296                           1 in 7

3/22     1,049            39              896                           1 in 2

3/23     1,285            28              236                           1 in 8

3/24     1,535            22.5           250                           1 in 8

3/25     1,855            21.5           320                           1 in 6

3/26     2,538            37              683                           1 in 6

3/27     3,026            19              488                           1 in 8

3/28     3,491            15.4           465                           1 in 8

3/29     4,596            31.6        1,105                           1 in 4            65

3/30     5,056            10              460           2,684       1 in 6             72

3/31     5,994            18.5           938           4,779       1 in 5             90

4/1       6,980            16.5           986           5,159       1 in 5           141

4/2       7,695            10.2           715           3,272       1 in 4.6         157

4/3       8,904            15.7        1,209           4,392       1 in 3.6         210

4/4     10,357            16           1,456           5,533       1 in 4             243

4/5     11,256            8.6             899           5,402       1 in 6             274

4/6     12,262            9             1,006           3,959       1 in 4             307

The Illinois testing total is now 62,942 and our mortality rate ticked up again, this time to 2.5 percent. The prevalence is bouncing around a bit, but with the disease decelerating and a non-standardized testing methodology (to say the least!), it’s not the best indicator right now.

The best indicator continues to be our daily percentage case increase which came in at a second lowest 9 percent. To some degree, it’s a result of a 27 percent decline in yesterday’s testing, but anytime you get two single-digit days in a row, it’s a very good thing.

Again, starting with our 288 March 18 total cases, had our 2.3 R0 been allowed to run rampant, all 13 million Illinoisans would now have the disease – not just a mere 12, 262. Even if we applied a much more flu-like 1.3 R0, without social distancing, we’d have 42,000 COVID-19 cases at this point.

That’s a bit of a mathematical reduction, but it still works, and that massive disparity between what is and what might have been illustrates just how well we’ve flattened the curve.

What I’m trying to say is, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! All the people who really know this stuff are drastically downgrading their previous plague prognostications. Of course, complacency will put us right back at that 2.3 R0, so Let’s keep up the good work!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Our best day yet!

So, let’s get right to the table!

Date   Cases   % Increase N Cases  N Tested  Prevalence    Deaths 

3/18     288

3/19     422               46.5           134                           1 in 14

3/20     585               37              163                           1 in 12

3/21     753               29              296                           1 in 7

3/22     1,049            39              896                           1 in 2

3/23     1,285            28              236                           1 in 8

3/24     1,535            22.5           250                           1 in 8

3/25     1,855            21.5           320                           1 in 6

3/26     2,538            37              683                           1 in 6

3/27     3,026            19              488                           1 in 8

3/28     3,491            15.4           465                           1 in 8

3/29     4,596            31.6        1,105                           1 in 4

3/30     5,056            10              460           2,684       1 in 6

3/31     5,994            18.5           938           4,779       1 in 5

4/1       6,980            16.5           986           5,159       1 in 5

4/2       7,695            10.2           715           3,272       1 in 4.6

4/3       8,904            15.7        1,209           4,392       1 in 3.6

4/4     10,357            16           1,456           5,533       1 in 4

4/5     11,256            8.6             899           5,402       1 in 6             274

Why is this our best Illinois day? I’m glad you asked!

When you combine a robust 5,402 testing number with an 8.6 percent 24-hour new coronavirus case increase – our lowest increase yet – it’s beyond statistically significant. If our 899 new case number isn’t just a downward blip, though I suspect it may be, we’re in really good shape.

Facts Not Fear 3

But what’s utterly undeniable is that more testing is NOT leading to a commensurate increase in new cases, and if that lack of a direct correlation holds up, Illinois may already be on the COVID-19 downside.

We’ve tested 58,983 citizen, the Illinois mortality rate went up a notch to 2.4 percent, the prevalence backed off to 1 in 6, and we held steady at number nine in the coronavirus case state rankings.

So, now that we’ve discussed this science for a while, let’s have some statistical fun! I know that sounds like an oxymoron but let me try to convince you otherwise.

My friend Paul sent me a column by Nate Silver of 538 Blog fame. If you recall, Nate is renowned for applying a proprietary statistical model to uncannily predict sports and political campaign outcomes. Much to my and every Cubs fan’s chagrin, 538 forecasted the Cubs would finish a disappointing 84 and 78 last year and that’s exactly what they did!

BTW, if you think our statistics lessons are somewhat daunting, read Nate’s rather long column linked above. It’s really quite fascinating, but to spare you that Herculean effort, Mr. Silver essentially says coronavirus case and testing numbers, when considered by themselves, are meaningless.

And they are!

Just as we’ve regularly discussed, Illinois coronavirus case numbers are rising because that’s exactly what we’d expect as we get a better handle on the disease. Put more simply, an increasing number of daily cases doesn’t necessarily mean social distancing isn’t working. Silver also duly notes that countries with lower testing rate will have fewer “official” cases, and vice versa.

But while we’d be wise to heed Nate’s warning, if you combine a healthy dose of pattern recognition with some serious statistical cross checking, you’ll always come out alright!

Once again! I’ve been citing political polling as the most basic form of pattern recognition. If pollsters can access a statistically significant sample of the appropriate voter universe, they’re rarely wrong, because the odds of encountering a counter-trend with a sample group are infinitesimal. Homo Sapiens instinctively moves with a herd mentality.

Here’s a perfect example!

On election night, a Kane County Board candidate I managed finished ahead by just 18 votes, but despite 64 outstanding absentee ballots, I called to congratulate him. Why? Because it was statistically impossible for him to lose.

Of those 64 ballots, only half, or 32, were likely to come back. That meant his opponent would have to secure 26, or 81 percent of those votes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And that’s statistically impossible. As the County Clerk told reporters, absentee ballots always break along the same lines as the polling place vote.

Sure enough! After the election results were certified, my candidate prevailed by a scant seven votes! But the best part of pattern recognition is understanding how indirectly related statistics will invariably affect each other.

When was the last time you heard about vote by mail ballots changed an election night result?

The reason I was concerned with some states’ climbing mortality rates is because it could’ve indicated a gross coronavirus case undercount. Thankfully, with the exception of those four states, the rest of the country sits well within the mortality norm.

One reader tried to tell me, based on some ill-defined CDC “recovering cases” data, the government was hiding a 67 percent COVID-19 mortality rate. My response was, “Where are the bodies? Why aren’t our hospitals overrun with the dead and dying?” I live within eyesight of Delnor Hospital and that would be kinda difficult to hide!

So, how do we know our trend is still intact? Because every last number supports it!

Coronavirus cases continue to rise, but at a consistently slower rate. Though our testing capacity has doubled, the number of new daily cases has not. The prevalence generally remains between a 1 in 6 to 1 in 8 ratio, and, as expected, the Illinois mortality crept up a bit, but it’s well within the bounds of median reason.

Furthermore, my medical professionals tell me the local hospitals are well under capacity, a greater number of formerly infected people are recovering – the Mayor of Aurora among them, and all the epidemiologist are revising their original terrifying forecasts downward.

When all the data lines up like it has, there’s only one possibility! Our social distancing efforts are working. While Nate’s certainly correct regarding those seemingly lonely numbers, cross checking your statistics is almost as powerful a force as compound interest!

Put more simply, our good work is working, so let’s keep it up!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – The power of a persistent trend!

Since there isn’t a whole heck of lot to report today, let’s get right to the numbers!

Date   T Cases    % Increase      N Cases       N Tests    Prevalence    Deaths

3/18     288

3/19     422               46.5             134                           1 in 14

3/20     585               37                163                           1 in 12

3/21     753               29                296                           1 in 7

3/22     1,049            39                896                           1 in 2

3/23     1,285            28                236                           1 in 8

3/24     1,535            22.5             250                           1 in 8

3/25     1,855            21.5             320                           1 in 6

3/26     2,538            37                683                           1 in 6

3/27     3,026            19                488                           1 in 8

3/28     3,491            15.4             465                           1 in 8

3/29     4,596            31.6         1,105                           1 in 4            65

3/30     5,056            10               460          2,684        1 in 6            72

3/31     5,994            18.5            938          4,779       1 in 5            90

4/1       6,980            16.5            986          5,159        1 in 5           141

4/2       7,695            10.2            715          3,272       1 in 4.6         157

4/3       8,904            15.7         1,209          4,392       1 in 3.6         210

4/4     10,357            16           1,456          5,533       1 in 4            243

53,581 Illinoisan have been tested, and after moving up a few ticks yesterday, the mortality rate held steady at 2.3 percent. We also fell to number nine in the coronavirus state rankings which is another sign our specific social distancing efforts are making a difference.

Facts Not Fear 3

Much like yesterday, considering Illinois processed a record 5,533 tests, our 16 percent daily case increase is very good news. Yes! The number of new coronavirus cases is setting records, but for the last two days, the percent increase of newly tested individuals was far greater than the 24-hour percent case increase.

Before your (and my) head explodes, here’s what I mean:

Date           % Case Increase   % Testing Increase

4/3                       15.7                            34

4/4                       16                               26

While more testing inevitably leads to more cases, we’re not seeing a direct one-to-one correlation between new testing and new cases as some readers thought we would. Put more simply, it’s taking more testing to find fewer new cases.

The fact that our prevalence ratio backed off a bit to 1 in 4 is further evidence of this non-correlative contention.

Given a frontline nurses comment on yesterday’s report, let’s get back to that all-important mental health aspect of a shelter-in-place pandemic, because what she said might be more troubling than the disease itself:

 I work in healthcare, and we are starting to see a surge of patients, not from COVID, but from anxiety and other mental health issues – lots of panic attacks (which can mimic COVID symptoms), suicidal ideations, increased agitation, and people who have been sober for years that have suddenly started drinking again. The doom and gloom of the media is definitely taking its toll on a lot of people’s mental health, and that is having a negative impact on our healthcare system and our ability to devote our full resources to fighting COVID 19.

So, I went to www.helpguide.org, a non-profit mental health and wellness website for their insights on how to handle the anxiety and isolation:

  1. Stay informed, but don’t obsessively check the news.
  2. Focus on the things you can control, not what you can’t.
  3. Plan for what you can.
  4. Stay connected by phone, email, or social media.
  5. Be kind to yourself.
  6. Create and stick to a routine.
  7. Head outside and get some exercise.
  8. Avoid self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
  9. The best way to overcome fear is to help someone else.
  10. Don’t be afraid to get professional help if necessary.

I would also suggest we focus on the positive and not the negative because, not only have none of the doom and gloom scenarios come to pass, but our trend clearly indicates that the Illinois coronavirus curve is continuing to level off.

That said, particularly as we head toward that April 15 pandemic peak, now is exactly the time to keep up the good work!

 

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – We’re still good!

Since those Switch games seem to be calling my name and there aren’t any significant coronavirus revelations to report, I’m gonna do my damndest to be a bit more concise. I won’t let the fact that I’ve never had much success with brevity stand in my way, either.

Particularly when you consider we tested 34 percent more people than Thursday, the news is quite good! Yes! Illinois reported a single day 1,209 new case record yesterday, but my favorite students know the measure of a pandemic isn’t the number of cases, it’s how fast the virus is spreading.

Facts Not Fear 3

Considered by itself, the Illinois coronavirus case total (8,904) offers absolutely no insight or predictive possibilities. Ah! But Friday’s 15.7 percent 24-hour case increase tells us that transmission continues to slow as a result of our persistent social distancing efforts.

I know it might seems like an isolation eternity, but just 2.5 weeks ago, the number of new coronavirus cases were doubling (50 percent) every day. But despite the news media’s utterly irresponsible promotion of doom and gloom projections, in less than three weeks Illinois has borne witness to a 66 percent drop in the speed of the pandemic.

For you doubters, the math looks EXACTLY like this: (((46.5 on 3/19 – 15.7 on 4/3) / 46.5) * 100)

Of course, it’s not over! But if we had done absolutely nothing to combat this plague, the number of total Illinois cases would be well over one million! That certainly makes 8,904 look a heck of a lot better!

While it’s more than amusing to see all the hilarious Mayor Lori Lightfoot memes, if the Second City’s gonna hit that 40,000 coronavirus hospitalization mark, with just under 4,000 total cases, they better get on the stick! And just where are California Governor Gavin Newsom’s “26 million cases in eight weeks?”

Sorry! I just couldn’t help but point out how appropriately applied math never lies! That’s the purview of politicians.

Meanwhile, here’s our updated table:

Date   T Cases    % Increase      N Cases       N Tests    Prevalence    Deaths

3/18     288

3/19     422               46.5             134                           1 in 14

3/20     585               37                163                           1 in 12

3/21     753               29                296                           1 in 7

3/22     1,049            39                896                           1 in 2

3/23     1,285            28                236                           1 in 8

3/24     1,535            22.5             250                           1 in 8

3/25     1,855            21.5             320                           1 in 6

3/26     2,538            37                683                           1 in 6

3/27     3,026            19                488                           1 in 8

3/28     3,491            15.4             465                           1 in 8

3/29     4,596            31.6         1,105                           1 in 4            65

3/30     5,056            10               460           2,684       1 in 6            72

3/31     5,994            18.5            938           4,779        1 in 5           90

4/1       6,980            16.5           986           5,159       1 in 5             141

4/2       7,695            10.2           715           3,272       1 in 4.6          157

4/3       8,904            15.7        1,209           4,392       1 in 3.6          210

The total amount of Illinoisans tested comes to a rather robust 48,048.

The prevalence moved up a bit to 1 in 3.6, but with all of the other indicators in sync, there’s no need to worry about that one. Had the disease mutated into something far more contagious that curve flattening would’ve already turned around.

We predicted the mortality rate would be a lagging indicator – people don’t die from the virus right away – and it is with the Illinois jumping to 2.3 percent. Don’t forget that only includes people who contracted the coronavirus.

I know this isolation is wearing on all you extroverts – we’ll talk about that tomorrow – but rest assured, Dear Reader, the news is far better than even I thought it would be at this still early point.

So, why not keep up the good work!

 

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Another good day!

In fact, if it weren’t for a 37 percent drop in tests administered Wednesday over Thursday, considering our inexorably set course towards that mid-April coronavirus peak, Thursday would’ve been a spectacular day.

Facts Not Fear 3

But before you throw off your shelter-in-place shackles and start hugging random Meijer shoppers, this curve flattening will only continue to work if we continue to work at it. Now is not the time to relax only to watch all these hard-earned gains slip away.

But before we move on to our updated table, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all the readers who’ve made a point of thanking me for these reports. First, I really could get used to that kind of thing, and second, it makes it a little easier to face the keyboard every morning.

Please also allow me reiterate that I remain steadfastly baffled by those lost souls who would argue about an application of truly basic arithmetic. All that’s in play here is addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – that’s it! Since I have no intention of debating the efficacy of seventh grade math, if you feel the uncontrollable urge to go negative or argue with me, please do so on your own thread.

When my generally political posts resume, they’ll be fair game!

So, without further ado, let’s look at our table!

Date   T Cases    % Increase      N Cases       N Tests    Prevalence    Deaths

3/18     288

3/19     422               46.5             134                           1 in 14

3/20     585               37                163                           1 in 12

3/21     753               29                296                           1 in 7

3/22     1,049            39                896                           1 in 2

3/23     1,285            28                236                           1 in 8

3/24     1,535            22.5             250                           1 in 8

3/25     1,855            21.5             320                           1 in 6

3/26     2,538            37                683                           1 in 6

3/27     3,026            19                488                           1 in 8

3/28     3,491            15.4             465                           1 in 8

3/29     4,596            31.6         1,105                           1 in 4            65

3/30     5,056            10               460           2,684       1 in 6            72

3/31     5,994            18.5            938           4,779        1 in 5           90

4/1       6,980            16.5           986            5,159        1 in 5         141

4/2       7,695            10.2           715            3,272        1 in 4.6      157

Illinois has officially tested 43,656 citizens, and thankfully, our mortality rate – for people who have the disease – stood fast at 2 percent. While that’s a bit of a relief, I’d certainly like to see it turn around and recede.

But best news, once again, is 715 new Illinois coronavirus cases amount to just a 10.2 percentage increase over Wednesday’s number. Even if you take the short-term decline in testing into account, that’s still a very good day.

Yes! The number of Illinois coronavirus cases continues to increase, but the all-important 24-hour percentage increase has plummeted from 46.5 to 10.2. Put more simply, the is spreading at consistently lower rate. Unless there’s some sort of unforeseen change, we’ll dip below double digits sooner rather than later.

The prevalence did slip to 1 in 4.6 yesterday, but the totality of the numbers suggest it’s the result of better targeted testing.

For review purposes, the term “prevalence” is the percentage or ratio of people in a population who’ve contracted the disease. Thus, if we divide 3,272 new tests by 715 new cases, 1 in every 4.6 of those folks tested positive for COVID-19

Though truth be told, our prevalence ratio is a bit hinky. Different tests at different institutions come back at different rates, so, for now, it’s going to be a lagging indicator. But even an imperfect variable can be important when you apply the same math to it over a statistically significant period of time.

Then I was wrong! Despite my declaration to the contrary, Illinois actually did fall back to eighth place in the state coronavirus rankings yesterday. This is yet another sign that we’re doing something right.

But before we continue, please remember all the amazing gratitude you’ve recently showered upon me as we contemplate a point we briefly touched on yesterday. With an ever increasing amount of medical evidence becoming available, it’s clear that we need to shift our coronavirus fighting paradigm.

Iceland’s widespread testing numbers suggest that 50 percent of coronavirus sufferers have no symptoms. If that’s the case, and I believe it is, then the virus isn’t nearly as deadly as we once thought it was. Remember! We’re not talking about mild cases, these people are wholly asymptomatic. I know that’s small solace to anyone who’s lost a loved one, but the best public policy is always based on fact and not emotion.

In addition to that revelation, we now know that 99 percent of coronavirus casualties in Italy and New York had some sort of serious preexisting condition, and the vast majority of those deaths – 87 percent in Italy – consist of people 70 or older.

So, with a much lower than expected mortality rate and a much clearer understanding of who needs to be protected, once we get past the April 15 eye of the COVID-19 hurricane, it would behoove our elected officials to change course by protecting the most vulnerable as we continue to beef up our health care system’s capacity to cope with the disease.

That includes doing everything we can to protect our front line medical workers.

My biggest fear has been this sustained global shutdown will unleash the kind of economic havoc that almost inevitably leads to the rise of fascism. As the New York Times wrote a couple of weeks ago, it would be beyond foolish to allow the cure to become worse than the disease.

But what I’m suggesting will only work if our policy makers are unanimously on board and the reopening of the country takes place in an orderly, cautious, and well-planned manner.

Of all the COVID-19 topics we’ve tackled, this is my first and likely only opinion on this pandemic. Please be gentle with me, but do feel free to debate that contention to your heart’s content!

But back to the statistical issue at hand! The numbers are the numbers, and every day the downward percentage trend remains intact, the probability is it will continue to remain intact. And that’s nothing more than basic math.

With that in mind, let’s keep up the good work!

 

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – A persistent trend and a revelation!

Since I really need to get back to writing ‘The Diary of a Curmudgeon’ – how can you do a diary book if you fail to make regular entries – let’s get right to the point! And the first point is, yesterday was a virtual carbon-copy of Tuesday.

Facts Not Fear 2

So, here’s our now overly familiar table:

Date   T Cases    % Increase      N Cases       N Tests    Prevalence    Deaths

3/18     288

3/19     422               46.5             134                           1 in 14

3/20     585               37                163                           1 in 12

3/21     753               29                296                           1 in 7

3/22     1,049            39                896                           1 in 2

3/23     1,285            28                236                           1 in 8

3/24     1,535            22.5             250                           1 in 8

3/25     1,855            21.5             320                           1 in 6

3/26     2,538            37                683                           1 in 6

3/27     3,026            19                488                           1 in 8

3/28     3,491            15.4             465                           1 in 8

3/29     4,596            31.6         1,105                           1 in 4            65

3/30     5,056            10               460           2,684       1 in 6            72

3/31     5,994            18.5            938           4,779        1 in 5           90

4/1       6,980            16.5            986           5,159        1 in 5          141

40,384 Illinoisans have now been tested and our mortality rate leapt to 2 percent. We’ll discuss that in a bit.

Again, as a result of our best testing day yet, there were 986 new coronavirus cases which amounts to a more than that reasonable 16.5 24-hour new case percentage rate. The prevalence rate held steady at 1 in 5.

Please note that, while the number of new testing and new cases is going up, it’s more than heartening to watch the daily percentage consistently come down, particularly now that we’re heading directly into the eye of the coronavirus hurricane.

The bottom line is, every time that percentage rate drops, the curve flattens a little bit more and the compound interest dividend gets larger.

Meanwhile, Illinois remains firmly ensconced in seventh place among the states with the most coronavirus cases and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon.

As for our recent mortality rate concerns, I want to thank my friend Paul Stukel for coming up with the probable solution for the growing disparity between some states. It all comes down to how you count coronavirus deaths.

The Italian Health Authority just released a study showing 99 percent of their COVID-19 casualties had a serious underlying condition like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Paul sent me a similar New York state study and their data mimics the Italians.

For metaphorical purposes, there is a concept in the law called the “eggshell skull rule,” or as it’s more colloquially known, “You take your victim as you find them.”

What that means is, if you kill a cancer patient with just 24 hours to live, it’s still a homicide. To wit, mounting a “he was gonna die anyway” defense won’t get you very far with the man or woman in black. Law professors love to offer the example where someone shoots a suicidal man jumping off a ten-story building as he passes the second floor. Future considerations notwithstanding, you’re heading for the pokey!

But while that makes perfect legal sense, similar medical thinking can massively skew a state mortality rate.

If a congestive heart failure patient with a poor prognosis was felled a year early by the coronavirus, is it really a coronavirus death? Probably not. So, those higher Louisiana, Michigan, Washington and Georgia mortality rates are likely the result of a non-standardized method of determining the cause of death.

Before you hit the “send” button, I’m not trying to be callous with this. But when some states suddenly start seeing a higher death rate, with no other avaialble explanation, it could mean the disease is mutating and that would not be good.

Again, critical thinking based on logic and fact is an almost magical thing.

Our final point of the day will be, between the 99 percent preexisting condition revelation and widespread Iceland testing suggesting as many as 50 percent of COVID-19 sufferers are asymptomatic, I firmly believe we must adopt an entirely new pandemic paradigm.

We’ll cover those thoughts tomorrow, but ONLY IF YOU PROMISE not to mass in front of my house with the pitchforks and torches for having the temerity to suggest something new. After all, that would be very poor social distancing.

I’m just gonna keep on saying it, keep up the good work!