The First Ward Report – This too, shall pass!

As we emerge from our bunkers and bomb shelters just long enough to see the boards slowly being removed from all those downtown Batavia and Geneva store windows, the singular question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s next? An asteroid strike?”

2020 certainly seems to be the advent of the Biblical End Times, doesn’t it?

But it was while considering that very topic with my favorite, and much younger, downtown Geneva business owner that I realized my 50s Baby Boom generation has endured so much more. Don’t worry! This ain’t gonna be another “I walked 20 mile to school through ten feet of snow uphill both ways” kind of declaration.

I don’t think I have that in me right now.

It’s just that there’s a certain solace in knowing that, despite our best efforts to do ourselves in, for better or worse, we’re still here! So, here’s what I told my friend.

Aurora Protest

I was too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I vividly recall all the ducking and covering under those St. Nick’s cafeteria tables while pondering how that could possibly protect me from a nuclear device.

But I’ll never forget being glued to our black and white TV as every network covered JFK’s painfully slow funeral procession. The country’s shock and awe were so palpable that it’s forever etched in my mind. And just five years later, his brother was similarly murdered.

Watching the South’s beyond violent reaction to the 1965 March to Selma march and the Civil Rights movement in general was terrifying. I still don’t understand how one human being can have that much hate in their heart.

Fear truly is a powerful thing.

I watched the 1966 Chicago race riots where the West Side was looted and burned to the ground mere miles from my south Evanston home. The always heavy-handed Mayor Daley the elder brought in the national guard to quell the violence and those neighborhoods never recovered.

Because we’re a people perpetually doomed to repeat history, it all happened again – this time on a national scale – after Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

When I was a young teenager, after four students were killed at Kent State, the increasingly virulent and violent Vietnam War protests threatened to tear this country apart. Then I stared at our color television in dismay and disbelief as protesters spat on 21-year-old returning soldiers simply for the sin of being drafted.

From 1974 to 1976, it was the Boston busing riots, and once again, Walter Cronkite was there to explain the issue in great detail. Where’s Walter when you really need him?

Just as Edith and Archie intoned on a weekly basis, the veil of nostalgia may make the 60s and 70s seem like “those were the days,” but they were the kind of tumultuous times that forged my soul and my most basic ideological foundation.

Put more simply, if you think 2020 is bad, you haven’t studied 1968.

The over-the-top response to COVID-19 has been beyond bizarre, but my generation has survived four similar pandemics. We also watched the AIDs epidemic take a devastating toll on our gay brothers throughout the 80’s and beyond.

Just like the virus, 2020 certainly seems to be a novel prospect, but when my friend inspired me to reconsider my own era, it became abundantly clear that Ecclesiastes 1:9 is dead on! There really is nothing new under the sun.

Sadly, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in six decades, it’s that humanity never fails to demonstrate a vast capacity to reach enlightenment only by being dragged through that doorway kicking and screaming the entire way. So perhaps, in that very vein, 2020 isn’t a complete catastrophe after all. Without trials and tribulations, our species tends to descend into an abject mass of weak-minded entitlement and that never turns out too well.

As for me, while my faith in individuals like my friend has grown stronger, my faith in my fellowman is irretrievably shattered. And if you find yourself in similar straits and you can’t find that place of peace within yourself, I would encourage you to abandon the false prophets and seek out those rare individuals who not only see, but live the truth.

They’re the one’s who insist that you find it within yourself – they never claim to have a monopoly on it.

There will always be predators, opportunists, those false prophets, and worse yet, the masses who self-righteously believe that ignorance, stupidity and hate are virtues. But challenging times like these also bring out the next generation of real leaders whose sole purpose will be to change the world for the better.

But if you’re not there quite yet, please remember, as I can personally attest, this too, shall pass.

The First Ward coronavirus report – Still good!

Unless there’s something new or more fascinating to report going forward, this will be the last coronavirus report for a while. That said, it will be rather fascinating to see if the riots and protests actually do lead to a second wave spike. My best guess is they won’t because it’s just too difficult to contract the disease outdoors.

In the words of those great philosophers Asia, “Only time will tell.”

Considering how the sun’s ultraviolet rays destroy it, the wind disperses it, and it’s virtually impossible to catch the coronavirus it from any surface, I cannot understand why youth sports remain on hiatus and all manner of summer events like the Kane County Fair and Bristol Renaissance Faire have been canceled.

Facts Not Fear 3

Since 2020 is insisting on asking us to “hold my beer” on a regular basis, this is EXACTLY the time we need those magnificent diversions, but baseless fear continues to reign supreme. Every time I’m convinced my faith in our “leaders” and my fellowman can’t descend further into the abyss, it does just that.

Meanwhile, the German Bundesliga Soccer League has resumed their season for almost a month now and there hasn’t been a single report of a player contracting COVID-19 as a result. If you’re too terrified to participate in a summer event, then there’s a very simple answer, don’t!

Meanwhile, let’s get back to the numbers because they’re all good!

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases    N Tested  Prevalence  Deaths 

5/1     56,055            5.6          3,137         14,821       1 in 4.7       2,457

5/2     58,505            4.3          2,450         15,208       1 in 6.2       2,559

5/3     61,499            4.8          2,994         19,417       1 in 6.5       2,618

5/4     63,840            3.8          2,341         13,834       1 in 6          2,662

5/5     65,962            3.3          2,122         13,139       1 in 6.2       2,838

5/6     68,232            3.4          2,270         14,974       1 in 6.6       2,974

5/7     70,873            3.8          2,641        17,783       1 in 6.7       3,111

5/8     73,760            4.0          2,887         20,671       1 in 7.1       3,241

5/9     76,085            3.1          2,325         16,617       1 in 7.1       3,349

5/10   77,741            2.1          1,656         13,653       1 in 8.2       3,406

5/11   79,007            1.6          1,266         12,441       1 in 9.8       3,459

5/12   83,021            5.0          4,014         29,266       1 in 7.3       3,601

5/13   84,698            2.0          1,677         17,688       1 in 10.5     3,792

5/14   87,937            3.8          3,239         22,678       1 in 7          3,928

5/15   90,368            2.6          2,431         26,565       1 in 10.9     4,058

5/16   92,457            2.3          2,089         23,047       1 in 11        4,129

5/17   94,191            1.8          1,734         20,295       1 in 11.7     4,177

5/18   96,484            2.4          2,293         21,297       1 in 9.2       4,234

5/19   98,030            1.6          1,546         18,443       1 in 12        4,379

5/20 100,418            2.4          2,388         21,029       1 in 8.8       4,525

5/21 102,686            2.2          2,268         29,036       1 in 13        4,607

5/22 105,444            2.6          2,758         25,113       1 in 9.1       4,715

5/23 107,796            2.2          2,352         25,114       1 in 10.6     4,790

5/24 110,304            2.3          2,508         25,675       1 in 10.2     4,856

5/25 112,017            1.5          1,713        21,643       1 in 12.6     4,884

5/26 113,195           1.0          1,178         17,230       1 in 14.6     4,923

 

5/27 114,306            0.9          1,111         17,179       1 in 15.4     5,083     

5/28 115,833            1.3          1,527         25,993       1 in 17        5,186     

5/29 117,455            1.4          1,622         21,796       1 in 13.4     5,270     

5/30 118,917            1.2          1,462         25,343       1 in 17.3     5,330     

5/31 120,260            1.1          1,343         21,154       1 in 15.7     5,390      

6/1   121,234            0.8             974         20,014       1 in 20.5     5,412       

6/2   122,848            1.3          1,614         16,432       1 in 10.1     5,525     

For reasons we’ve previously covered, I wouldn’t put too much stock in any Illinois number, but we’ve purportedly tested 934,704 residents. We’re still in third place nationally and the mortality rate, currently at 4.4 percent, will likely remain there for the duration.

And all the good news is the same good news which makes it ever better news! We’re always looking for trends, aren’t we?

To wit, we don’t need a moving average to tell us that the number of daily new COVID-19 cases is consistently dropping despite a rather consistent testing effort. Better yet, the best the new daily case percentage increase could do was a scant 1.4 percent, which means that the collapse of social distancing is not leading to any Illinois coronavirus spiking catastrophe.

Though the death toll does continue to bounce around a bit, that too, is clearly trending downward and the data point I particularly like this round is June first’s slim 22 deaths.

Date    Deaths

5/27       160

5/28       103

5/29         84

5/30         60

5/31         60

6/1           22

6/2         113

We’d have to go back to the earliest Illinois pandemic days to find a lower casualty total.

COVID-19 ICU bed usage has officially plummeted from a 1,290 April, 29 high to just 874 yesterday. Ventilator use has similarly declined to a new record low 547 on Monday.

But, I’m sure my crack statistical deputies have duly noted that, just when we thought the prevalence couldn’t retreat any further, it does! And that includes an astonishing 1 in 20.5, also on June first, when it took 20,000 tests to solicit just 974 positive results.

Again, the only possible explanation for this phenomenon is a rapidly evolving herd immunity. And herd immunity is the only thing that will finally put the oaken stake in COVID-19’s bleak heart.

So, while I’d be happy to keep issuing these reports, and I will continue tracking the data, it’s all good. The appropriate application of statistical arithmetic has never failed to tell us exactly what the disease will do next, and I applaud all of the amazing folks who’ve joined me in this fascinating critical thinking journey!

But before we move on from the coronavirus for now, two more things!

Because it’s the purview of too many pandering politicians, I’m loathe to co-opt a current event just to point a finger and say “I told you so!” So, before I offered this theory, I spoke with s slew of erudite friends, elected officials, and law enforcement officers, and only after they signed on did I decide to proceed.

We all agreed that looters are nothing more than opportunists who, like cockroaches, slither out of the dark recesses whenever social unrest shields them from the light of day. But all the other protests? Hasn’t one of our bedrock considerations been that that nothing ever happens in a vacuum?

My theory is those heavy handed and vastly overreaching government shutdowns are a “cure” that’s far worse than the pandemic. And one of the consequences of so callously destroying peoples’ – and particularly minorities’– lives and livelihoods is that it only takes a spark to set off the kind of anger we’re witnessing right now.

And the beyond tragic death of George Floyd was that spark.

While corporations are reaping billions of COVID-19 relief funds, the people who really needed that money got a paltry 1,200 bucks. And this time, the revolution is being televised.

Lastly, considering what’s happening in so many prisons and long-term care facilities, Sheriff Ron Hain and his capable staff have done a magnificent job of keeping the coronavirus out of the Kane County jail. Ron and I may fight like brothers because he can be a real pain in the ass (he’d say the same thing about me), but the Sheriff’s office truly deserves credit for pulling that kind of thing off!

Now, insisting you stay safe works on any number of levels. My application to serve on the International Space Station goes in tomorrow!

 

The First Ward Report – The Batavia bomb material possession case resolved – continued

While we’ll certainly get to the terms of the plea agreement before we’re through, let’s get right to the heart of the matter. And that point is the Batavia High School student charged with possessing bomb making materials – the one who planned a “day of rage” – was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia.

And let me tell you, having worked with schizophrenics for five years in my twenties, it is one of the most terrifying diseases you could possibly imagine. COVID-19? I’d take having that bleep five times over developing schizophrenia!

Schizoprenia

It’s absolutely nothing like the multiple personality disorders most people make it out to be, either. It can only be described as a complete mental break from any shared reality which may or may not include hearing voices, hallucinations, delusions, and incredibly disorganized thinking.

If you’ve ever spoken with a schizophrenic enduring a rough psychotic break, it’s something you’ll never forget. They typically appear to be quite lucid and they’re very capable of communicating, but it’s a lot like interacting with a being that just popped in from another dimension. Where’s your common point of reference?

If you truly want to understand this horrific mental illness, I’d highly recommend the 2001 Ron Howard movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind.’ It’s the story of Nobel Prize Winning mathematician John Nash who developed the disease while he was a Princeton graduate student. The scenes of Nash working on an “assignment” from a phantom Pentagon “supervisor” in an abandoned shed are the best depiction of schizophrenia I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Thankfully, Schizophrenia affects just 0.5 percent of the population, but that still adds up to 1.6 million Americans. The symptoms generally evidence themselves in young adulthood, though women do tend to develop it later in life. Only two percent of schizophrenics are violent, and even paranoid schizophrenics can become fully functional with the appropriate anti-psychotic drugs.

But there’s the rub! Though those medications have exponentially improved since the late 80s, their side effects still suck. Then, a greater irony is, when those side effects are minimal, just like most of us do with antibiotics, the second they start seriously improving, they stop taking them.

The NIU shooter was a paranoid schizophrenic who, for reasons we’ll never know, stopped taking his medication. Perhaps it had something to do with the vast stigma mental illness inevitably bestows.

But here’s what really troubles me. Considering the current quality of the average Tri-City denizen, it really shouldn’t surprise me, but I’m beyond stunned at all those good social media Christians who ripped their garments and gnashed their teeth while lamenting that this kid “only” got probation.

Please tell me exactly how he’s culpable here? There is no amount of willpower, no amount of counseling, and certainly no form of “intervention” that could possibly stop this 17-year-old’s brain from betraying him. And the kick in the ass is, schizophrenics don’t realize it when their chemically imbalanced brain is selling them out!

So, insisting he be jailed is just like punishing a Batavia two-year old for their failure to speak fluent Russian. Would you threaten your child with hellfire if they couldn’t lift your SUV? Perhaps a better analogy would be incarcerating you for your failure to follow the most basic Christian tenet, but the truth is, I’m convinced most of you don’t have a capacity for empathy.

And what kills me is, this plea agreement is an excellent one! Jailing this kid would serve no purpose, but he did plead guilty to an adult offense which gives the State some leverage to ensure he takes his medication. That probation sentence also makes it clear he can’t have anything to do with Batavia High School whatsoever.

You know I’m not too fond of this iteration of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office, but I do have to give prosecutor Bridget Sabbia real credit for doing the right thing when it would’ve been so much easier to do the wrong thing.

My hat’s also off to Gary Johnson, a defense attorney I refer more than any other, for how he handled this, but the underlying issue there is, how many similarly affected families could afford Gary?

And please don’t blame the parents! Whatever early symptoms might have reared their ugly heads, given that damning stigma, what reasonable parent would want to admit  their son is mentally ill. It’s NOT easy.

In the end, it all comes down to an absolute lack of any real mental health safety net. Can I say that would’ve prevented the NIU tragedy or kept this Batavia student on track? Not with certainty! But I can say with there was absolutely no shot at preventing them without one.

I can also say that, back in 2014, Kane County residents had the opportunity to approve a scant 0.1 percent tax increase that would’ve raised $13 million a year to provide a better life for our mentally ill and their weary parents and caretakers. But you all voted it down by almost two-to-one.

But yet, you’re willing to abandon the mentally ill in state prisons at an annual cost of up to 65 grand per inmate. Silly me, I thought good Christians were supposed to take care of the least of their brothers!

So, here’s my advice to anyone who still believe this kid should go to jail, or to any voter who helped kill that referendum! Start practicing your explanation for that mindset to St. Peter now, because, mark my words, it’s gonna take some serious verbal gymnastics to get you past those pearly gates.

The First Ward Report – The Batavia bomb material possession case resolved!

And when I say “resolved,” I mean resolved on two levels, but we’ll only cover the first one today. And that one is, who is the “news media.”

Batavia High School

Before you get too terribly excited, the 16th Circuit didn’t really answer that question, but not only does their new ruling have merit, it is an excellent foundation to build upon.

Harkening back to a time before the plague era commenced, this journalist was collaboratively working with 16th Circuit Chief Judge Clint Hull to determine what the statutory definition of “the news media” should be. More specifically, we were pursuing that answer in regard to who can attend a generally closed juvenile hearing.

Before this new order, only reporters with major newspaper affiliations were allowed to attend those hearings, but given my previous coverage of this case, I wanted to hear the Kane County prosecutor’s transfer argument for myself. I wanted to understand why she believed the Batavia high schooler charged with possession of bomb making material should be tried as an adult.

True to his word, with a little help from his black-robed friends, Chief Judge Clint Hull and presiding juvenile court judge Kathy Karayannis issued their ruling well before the May 28th hearing. So, here’s a summary of what it contains:

  • The order applies to all journalists and not just bloggers.
  • Any journalist who wishes to attend a juvenile court proceeding must submit an officially court stamped request to do so at least seven days before the hearing.
  • Once filed, the journalist must provide copies of that request to the prosecutor and defense attorney involved.
  • Those attorneys have may file a written objection to the journalist’s courtroom presence within that seven-day window.
  • If there is no objection, or the judge hearing the case denies all objections, the same judge will make the final attendance determination.

That certainly works for me!

Because the inevitable result of Internet opening the door to a vast democratization, is that anyone can call themselves a journalist. But the truth also is, with perhaps one exception, I’m exponentially more of a journalist than anyone at the Daily Herald or the suburban Tribune newspapers. Just ignore my adoring throng’s incessant protests to the contrary.

The Edgar County Watchdogs would like you to believe they’re journalists, but with absolutely no standards and no ethical foundation, they’ve become nothing more than schoolyard bullies with a voice.

Then there’s a cooking blog I adore because the author’s approach to communicating her craft is beyond journalistic.

So, to some degree, they’re all “journalists,” but does that mean they should all be allowed to participate in a juvenile court hearing? Clearly, the only realistic alternative is to vet everyone each and every time.

And I have no problem with that!

Ah! But the irony here is (And there’s always an irony with Jeff Ward, isn’t there?), all the local newspaper publishers, editors, and reporters I live to correctly criticize have a new and far more fascinating reason to loathe me.

As if they needed another one!

Though I have to say it’s more than amusing to hear how newly furious they are because my eminently simple court ruling request forces them to take those additional steps.

As it is with any attempt to provide a statutory answer to a philosophical question, the order will require improvement. It should include at least a basic definition of what a journalist is and the Court needs to be far more specific regarding the grounds on which a prosecutor, defense attorney, or judge can object to a journalist’s presence.

I know it’s hard to believe, but some 16th Circuit judges aren’t too terribly fond of me. And I’m such a nice guy, too!

But since it’s all wine and roses this round, I want to thank Chief Judge Hull and his counterparts for this cooperative effort to answer the “Who’s a journalist?” question. This is a perfect example of how the media and the courts can avoid those far too frequent pitched battles.

In a final irony, I did not attend yesterday’s hearing because a courtroom is the last place I’d ever want to be during a pandemic, and I suspected a plea deal was the works and it was. We will discuss that agreement on Monday.

All I can say is, all those self-proclaimed good Christians, you know, the readers who so easily dismissed this young man, are gonna have quite a bit to answer for when it’s their time to be judged.

 

 

The First Ward coronavirus report – Better yet!

So, I wuz wrong! But only in the mildest and best way. My previous contention that the numbers are what the numbers are gonna be for quite some pandemic time was summarily dashed by a rather surprising improvement in our coronavirus outlook.

Facts Not Fear 3

But while we’ve certainly stomped the bejesus out of the Illinois curve, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, as the real experts have been saying all along, all we’ve really done is postpone the inevitable second wave until fall and winter when the disease will be that much more insidious.

And herd immunity is coming whether we like it to, or not! Perhaps you’ve observed that eating and drinking establishments are reopening with or without the Governor’s express written consent. Not only that, but my spies tell me Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was so packed with fleeing FIPs that sardines were pointing and laughing.

(If you don’t now what “FIP” stands for please avail yourself of any Wisconsin or Michigan friend.)

But let’s get back to the numbers before I get lost it yet another infamous rant! And this time we have nine, count ‘em, nine data points:

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases    N Tested  Prevalence  Deaths 

5/1     56,055            5.6          3,137         14,821       1 in 4.7       2,457

5/2     58,505            4.3          2,450         15,208       1 in 6.2       2,559

5/3     61,499            4.8          2,994         19,417       1 in 6.5       2,618

5/4     63,840            3.8          2,341         13,834       1 in 6          2,662

5/5     65,962            3.3          2,122         13,139       1 in 6.2       2,838

5/6     68,232            3.4          2,270         14,974       1 in 6.6       2,974

5/7     70,873            3.8          2,641         17,783       1 in 6.7       3,111

5/8     73,760            4.0          2,887         20,671       1 in 7.1       3,241

5/9     76,085            3.1          2,325         16,617       1 in 7.1       3,349

5/10   77,741            2.1          1,656         13,653       1 in 8.2       3,406

5/11   79,007            1.6          1,266         12,441       1 in 9.8       3,459

5/12   83,021            5.0          4,014         29,266       1 in 7.3       3,601

5/13   84,698            2.0          1,677         17,688       1 in 10.5     3,792

5/14   87,937            3.8          3,239         22,678       1 in 7          3,928

5/15   90,368            2.6          2,431         26,565       1 in 10.9     4,058

5/16   92,457            2.3          2,089         23,047       1 in 11        4,129

5/17   94,191            1.8          1,734         20,295       1 in 11.7     4,177

5/18   96,484            2.4          2,293         21,297       1 in 9.2       4,234

5/19   98,030            1.6          1,546         18,443       1 in 12        4,379

5/20 100,418            2.4          2,388         21,029       1 in 8.8       4,525

5/21 102,686            2.2          2,268         29,036       1 in 13        4,607

5/22 105,444            2.6          2,758         25,113       1 in 9.1       4,715

5/23 107,796            2.2          2,352         25,114       1 in 10.6     4,790

5/24 110,304            2.3          2,508         25,675       1 in 10.2     4,856

5/25 112,017            1.5          1,713         21,643       1 in 12.6     4,884

5/26 113,195            1.0          1,178         17,230       1 in 14.6     4,923

Illinois has purportedly tested 769,564 of its citizens, the mortality rate, currently at 4.3 percent, has been flatter than a pancake for well over a month, and we’re sitting squarely in third place in the national COVID-19 state rankings.

But since they’re so much more fun, let’s move on to the surprises!

The first is a record low 1 percent daily new case increase percentage. Though it’s likely more a result of our overdue spate of late spring warm weather than any human effort, it does mean the disease is dead in its tracks – for now.

The next, and very pleasant, turn of events is the plummeting death toll. This indicator is so good

5/18       57

5/19     145

5/20     146

5/21       82

5/22     108

5/23       75

5/24       66

5/25       28

that even Governor Not-the-Brightest-Bulb-in-the-Pack had to admit the COVID-19 peak is well behinds us, but only after he tried to extend it twice. And yesterday’s 28 deaths, another record low, is something we haven’t seen since the pandemic first reared its ugly head.

But what’s our favorite number class? That’s right! The prevalence further regressed to an astonishing 1 in 14.6 on Tuesday. But before we celebrate, I’m sure you remember we’ve been discussing three possibilities for that vast retreat:

  • Un-sick people are suddenly being tested
  • COVID-19 has become less contagious
  • Herd immunity is progressing apace

But not even I had the temerity to consider that the Governor and his insane state public health director were fricken’ fudging the numbers! What have I been saying about truth and fiction?

A McHenry County accountant reached out to Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Mark Konkol to explain he’d been adding up the individual Illinois county testing numbers since May 4 and they fell far short of the reported totals – to the tune of 40,000 phantom tests.

That would, beyond any and all reasonable doubt, partially explain the sudden prevalence shift we’ve been so earnestly covering.

When confronted with this anomaly, the incompetent Dr. Ngozi Ezike claimed it was a “glitch” borne of her agency’s inability to handle the “mountain” of incoming digital data. And as long as “glitch” means artificially inflating the total number for political gain, then I’m in!

C’mon! Illinois has all of 102 counties, and as a former 20-year database consultant, I can fully attest those county totals are automatically fed into a central system with no human intervention whatsoever. So, the only way that testing total could be that far off is through human intervention.

Worse yet, not only did the Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily Herald, and the rest of the fake news media fail to catch this blatant BS, but they ignored it even after Konkol reported it. The truth doesn’t get you “hits,” does it?

So, as that crank Dr. Phil would say, “How’s trusting the ‘experts’ workin’ out for ya?”

Thankfully, the prevalence drift has been so significant that our errant test number doesn’t begin to account for it.

Meanwhile, with testing settling down, the five-day moving average is starting to regain meaning, and given their newly abrupt whipsaw nature, I’m convinced someone’s playing with the COVID-19 occupied ICU beds and ventilators, too. That said, both trends remain generally down.

Oh crap! We were supposed to get to Sweden and the efficacy of herd immunity, but I’ve already rambled on for far too long! The bottom line is, it’s all good!

But if I may be so bold as to offer one final prediction, it would be that we’ll see those daily testing numbers continue to decline as fewer people seek to be tested.

Stay safe!

 

The First Ward Report – Quick Hits is Back!

The reasons we’re briefly returning to my former short news story roots is, I’m more than ready for another reporting break and I think we’re all getting a completely coronavirused out! What that means is, I’ll be taking Monday off and likely returning with another COVID-19 update on Wednesday the 27th.

 

A too-brief moment of gubernatorial sanity

My original plan was to write an opinion piece on the Geneva Bria nightmare where I would juxtapose the lack of State long-term care facility oversight with Governor J. B. Pritzker unilaterally issuing an emergency order making it a Class A misdemeanor to prematurely open a small business prematurely.

But before he could even take a breath, facing a gale force entrepreneurial pushback wind, and before I could put virtual pen to virtual paper, the Governor repealed the edict. Apparently even he’s beginning to understand his new dictatorial powers only go so far.

That said, I cannot fathom how Pritzker could threaten to fine and close a downstate biker bar because patrons were allowed to eat at outdoor picnic tables spaced ten feet apart, but there’s been absolutely no investigation into how 48 percent of Illinois COVID-19 casualties somehow managed to occur in nursing homes.

Considering what those Bria sources said in Wednesday’s column, there certainly seems be a strong case for filing criminally negligent and reckless homicide charges there. But the Geneva Police couldn’t possibly handle that kind of investigation and the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office obviously can’t be bothered. So, were I an aggrieved Bria resident family member, I’d go directly to the Attorney General’s Office.

 

So much for the “experts!”

Before the What’s Happening In comments were mercifully turned off on my posts, the most frequent complaint I received was that readers would ignore me and “rely on the experts,” particularly the Center for Disease Control, or the CDC.

As that bleep Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Per The Atlantic, “We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus.”

Un-bleepin’-believable!

CDC Failed

A favorite businessman’s apt response to this revelation – most of which can’t be printed in a family blog – was any self-respecting corporation would immediately terminate those responsible for this unconscionable blunder. But we know that’ll never happen because working for any level of government means never having to say you’re sorry.

So, as disappointed as I am with every last Democratic state shutdown governor, and though I’m not so sure more accurate numbers would’ve mattered, they have been operating under the guise of an inflated coronavirus case count.

Put more simply, relying on “experts” in no way absolves us of our responsibility to regularly resort to critical thinking!

Meanwhile, there is no longer any question that the truth is so much stranger than fiction!

 

A brief COVID-19 report

We’re only gonna focus on the prevalence retreating to an astonishing record 1 in 13 yesterday, because that’s the only number that really matters right now! To put that in perspective, a month ago, a 29,000-test day would’ve resulted in 6,500 new cases, but it only turned up 2,268 on Thursday.

Since no one believes the disease is getting less contagious, and I can’t imagine asymptomatic folks are driving to and waiting hours in line to be tested at the overly popular I-88 Outlet Mall site, I ran my herd immunity theory by an infectious disease expert and he agreed that it had to be the case.

That also makes sense when you consider the amazing number of asymptomatic COVID-19 sufferers eventually uncovered in New York and Iceland. Most of us didn’t realize we had the disease, we quickly recovered, and now we’re immune to it.

But the only way to prove that hypothesis is to start randomly testing folks for those coveted coronavirus antibodies, but despite my best journalistic efforts to be a guinea pig in that regard, no one seems to be offering that post-disease testing.

All that said, if any of my crack deputy statisticians can come up with another evidence-based argument for why the prevalence has lunged from 1 in 4.5 to 1 in 13 in 30 short pandemic days, I’d absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts.

What about the rest of our indicators, you ask? As we already suspected, they’re simply bouncing around a bit because this is as good as it’s gonna get until we either acquire that herd immunity, or an effective vaccine is made available to every person on the planet.

 

A Memorial Day wish!

Here’s to all the brave men and women who gave everything so I can publish these columns and you can readily read them. Particularly considering the times, let’s never take the freedom for which they so selflessly sacrificed for granted.

Holy crap! This was supposed to be a short column! Oh well, I guess I had more to say than I thought. Thank you for reading my stuff and have a great Memorial Weekend!

 

The First Ward Report – What went wrong at Bria

Having covered this pandemic from a mathematical perspective for over two months now, the only number that really shocks me is that 48 percent of Illinois coronavirus casualties have come in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Remove those utterly unnecessary deaths and the Illinois mortality rate would plunge to just 2.3 percent. That’s not a great number either, but it’s a heck of a lot better than our current 4.4 percent rate.

Considering how those Italian doctors sounded the early warning that the average age of their coronavirus victims was 79.5, and 99 percent of those unfortunate folks had a serious medical condition that greatly contributed to their deaths, you’d think U. S. nursing homes would’ve instantly sounded the red alert.

But the numbers tell a different story, don’t they?

Given the ample press coverage, I’m sure you already know that Bria on Geneva, Illinois’ ease side, is one of the hardest hit Illinois facilities. As of Friday, they reported a frightening 122 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths.

Bria Geneva 2

But despite the glare of that extended press spotlight, no reporter has adequately explained why so many cases and deaths occurred there. Left unchallenged, Bria administrators are claiming they’ve implemented the appropriate safeguards all along.

But that’s not what a surprising number of sources either posted on Facebook or told me directly. Here’s what they’ve said:

1. Staff wasn’t tested or even minimally screened (temperature taking etc.) for the disease until residents’ family members publicly complained about it in mid-April.

2. When employees alerted Bria management they’d been exposed to a friend or family member with the virus, they were told to come in to work anyway.

3. Janitors, food service staff, and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) weren’t provided with any real form of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) until mid-April.

4. Bria allowed staff and family members to have direct contact with residents despite the clear threat of transmitting a disease with an exceptionally contagious R-naught of 2.3. For comparison purposes, the average annual flu’s R-Naught is just 1.5.

5. When residents started developing obvious COVID-19 symptoms, most were never tested, leaving the coroner’s office to determine if decedents had the disease post-mortem. One of the most frequent complaints I heard was that Bria never told the families their loved ones were sick.

6. Each resident’s room should have been stocked with masks, gloves, gowns, sanitary wipes, and bleach wipes from the pandemic start. But Bria didn’t even provide the typical hand sanitizer stations you see at doorways in virtually every medical institution.

7. A Batavia Holmstad source said that even their food service employees are required to change scrubs and PPE whenever they move from one resident’s room to another. But Bria didn’t implement that important protocol until the press started asking questions.

8. Whenever staff discards PPE or scrubs, they should be promptly deposited into a clearly marked and sealable red bio-hazard container. But Bria staff were told to simply toss those items into regular laundry hampers.

9. Food service containers and trays should be similarly treated to prevent cross contamination, but Bria didn’t take that precaution, either.

10. My Holmstad source also explained how exhausting it is to change scrubs and PPE every time you enter another resident’s room. But Bria made that critical safeguard virtually impossible to carry out by having just 15 CNAs on shifts that, by their own policies, required at least 30. That would go a long way towards explaining those 122 coronavirus cases.

11. Since these inexplicable lapses speak for themselves, my goal is to adopt a more dispassionate disposition this round. But when I learned that Bria made no effort to stop staff from throwing obvious biohazards like dirty diapers, soiled gloves, and toilet brushes into open plastic garbage cans and laundry hampers, I was more than appalled.

Meanwhile, the Holmstad applies a double team standard by which a designated janitor stays outside the room, while a cleanup crew member heads in wearing bleach whites. Any biohazard laundry or waste is quickly double-bagged and handed to that janitor, who deposits it directly into the appropriate red container. Once full, those containers are sealed to prevent any undue COVID-19 transmission.

The bottom line? While Bria’s coronavirus numbers are off the charts, the Holmstad hasn’t reported a single case.

As is always the case, I provided Bria with two full days to address my sources’ concerns and they have failed to take advantage of that opportunity.

So far, two wrongful death lawsuits have been filed by devastated family members, and if I was a betting man, I’d say Bria will soon face 20 more. My guess is they’ll file for bankruptcy before the smoke finally clears.

With the hard reporting out of the way, the corresponding opinion piece will run on Friday. In that column, we’ll discuss the all-to-obvious reason that Bria let their residents down, as well as the Governor’s vast hypocrisy for threatening to pull business licenses, while doing nothing about the industry responsible for half of all Illinois coronavirus deaths.