Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Back on track!

Having received some rather humorous “complaints” about massive headaches as a result of yesterday’s statistics class, let’s keep it simple and sweet today because the news is almost all good! And the best news is Illinois’ downward daily percentage coronavirus trend remains intact. Every day it persists makes it that more likely to continue to persist.

Facts Not Fear 2

So, let’s get right to our table, which is getting a bit bigger. I apologize for my lack of WordPress formatting skills, but going forward, “T” stands for “Total” and “N” stands for “New.”

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

The total number of Illinoisans tested is now, 30,446, and our mortality rate remained at 1.4 percent.

Again! The 10 percent increase in new cases over Sunday is a very welcome new low. So, while we’re still seeing people contract the coronavirus, the daily percentage increase in those new cases has plummeted from 46.5 percent, or almost double on March 19, to just 10 percent yesterday. And now that we have 12 data points, I’d bet my life this trend will continue until and unless there’s significant evidence to the contrary.

Our prevalence number also returned to its normal range with one in six of our 2,684 newly tested individuals proving to be positive.

Chicago’s numbers also were back in line accounting for 92 of the new Illinois cases, putting their daily percentage increase at the same low 10 percent. And it looks like Illinois will stay at number eight in the coronavirus case state rankings after once being as high as fourth.

The only troublesome data is, like Louisiana last week, Washington state’s mortality rate similarly jumped to four percent, Georgia’s moved up to 3.6 percent and Michigan’s hit the 2.8 percent mark. Louisiana continues to top the nation with an inexplicable 4.6 percent mortality rate.

I originally thought Louisiana had to be an outlier, but my current best estimate is coronavirus deaths come in waves and those out-of-whack numbers will come down over time. Let’s hope they do.

Please remember that trends can change, diseases can mutate, and hidden variables can come to light. But since the only thing we can control is ourselves us and our continued social distancing efforts, let’s focus on that and try to let go of what we can’t control.

Our good work is paying off! Let’s keep it up!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Some truly strange data

Gird your loins Dear Reader! Because today you’re gonna get a real lesson in pandemic statistics and general causality! And the reason for this impending classroom session is, other than the news is not nearly as bad as it seems, I’m not quite sure what to make of yesterday’s Illinois coronavirus data.

Please allow me to explain!

It starts with yesterday’s 1,105 news cases. While that was certainly the largest 24-hour jump since we started tracking coronavirus data, remember, the number of newly infected people isn’t nearly as worrisome as the speed at which the disease is progressing.

The obvious answer to this semi-sudden expansion is, since March 24, the Illinois coronavirus testing capacity has doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 test kits a day. And if you look at our brand spanking new table, at first glance, the increased testing could be the case jump culprit.

Date     Total Cases     % Increase     New Cases    Prevalence   Total Tested

3/18     288

3/19     422                  46.5 percent         134             1 in 14    (2,000/day tested)

3/20     585                  37 percent            163             1 in 12

3/21     753                  29 percent            296             1 in 7

3/22     1,049               39 percent            896             1 in 2

3/23     1,285               28 percent            236             1 in 8

3/24     1,535               22.5 percent         250             1 in 8

3/25     1,855               21.5 percent         320             1 in 6

3/26     2,538               37 percent            683             1 in 6     (4,000/day tested)

3/27     3,026               19 percent            488             1 in 8

3/28     3,491               15.4 percent         465             1 in 8

3/29     4,596               31.6 percent      1,105             1 in 4               27,762

We crept up from a 1.3 percent mortality rate to 1.4.

But if you look a little deeper, while more test kits might be a factor, it ain’t the whole story.

As for the new table, I’ve added the number of new daily cases, the prevalence of the coronavirus among those tested, and the total number of Illinoisans tested. In retrospect, I shoulda been tracking the latter all along because, as the number of people tested increases, so will the number of cases.

“But Jeff! What the heck is ‘prevalence?’” I’m glad you asked!

Epidemiologists often apply the terms “incidence” and “prevalence” when discussing a pandemic. Incidence is the likelihood that someone in a specific population will contract the disease, while prevalence is the number of people within a specific population who HAVE the disease.

Prevalence is typically expressed in decimal ratios, but I’ve simplified it so our collective statistic addled heads won’t summarily explode. On March 28, of the 4,000 people tested, 465, or one in eight actually had the virus.

As you can see, the prevalence rate appears to be incredibly consistent – until yesterday.

But before I offer some explanations for that, please understand that our prevalence stat is fraught with peril. The Governor noted that the Illinois coronavirus testing capacity had doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 as of March 22, but considering the lag time involved in getting test kits in the right hands, I semi-arbitrarily chose March 26 as the 4,000 test start date.

Don’t forget that “testing capacity” does not necessarily equate to the number of people actually being tested, either

And I used the term “semi-arbitrary” because that March 26 date best fits the previously consistent data. With the exception of March 22, the prevalence rate has unerringly fallen between 1 in 6 to 1 in 8. But then yesterday, 1 in 4 tested inexplicably had the disease, which really doesn’t make much sense.

The possibilities include:

  • We’re getting better at testing the right people
  • The latest batch of tests are less accurate
  • The latest batch of tests are more accurate
  • It’s the kind of statistical blip that occasionally occurs
  • The disease has become more contagious

I have to say, I was worried about the 1 in 4 stat until I internally exclaimed, “Aha! It’s been five or six days since Mayor Lightfoot fumed over the overcrowded lakefront, and that’s squarely within the coronavirus incubation sweet spot.

But that theory was blown to bits by Chicago’s newest numbers.

Even after last Monday’s lakefront frivolity, the Second City reported a scant 93 new cases (1,975 total) yesterday. But there’s no way the entire state (including Chicago) could see a 31.6 24-hour percentage jump, while the eminently denser City of Chicago comes in at one-fifth that, or just 6 percent!

The only possible explanations for this disparity are:

  • Chicago isn’t getting their fair share of test kits
  • Chicago is underreporting their numbers
  • Testing is less accurate in Chicago
  • Testing is more accurate in Chicago
  • The disease has become less contagious
  • Something in the Chicago River imbues a unique coronavirus immunity

Though I’d love to go with the latter for all the obvious comedic reasons, one of my sources said Chicago is, indeed, getting the short end of the testing kit stick. But despite these more difficult and disparate numbers, when all is said and done, our trendline holds true!

Again, let’s harken back to the stock market for a perfect example of what I speak. Please note the dual “resistance” and “support” trendlines inserted on the stock chart below:


The resistance line is drawn across the peaks, while the support line is drawn across the valleys. Had I created that graphic, I would’ve also included the central trendline drawn between the other two. Among other potential factors, savvy technical analysts only consider the emergence of a different trend when the peaks remain above resistance or the valleys consistently sit below support.

Right now, our Illinois “resistance” trendline points include three percentages, 39, 37, and 31. And the fact that those peaks are, for now, decreasing in magnitude, massively reinforces the current trend, or the continued flattening of the Illinois coronavirus curve.

I would expect some sort of case number pop when Chicago gets a better handle on testing, but the odds of even that city undermining what we’ve seen so far are pretty slim. And once we integrate that inevitable bump in case data, unless something else changes, our trend will likely remain in force.

To wit, despite yesterday’s bump, we’re still number eight in statewide cases.

Meanwhile my rather intelligent friend Bill Wright (please don’t tell him I said that) duly noted that the national numbers are getting better, too! The number of new U. S. cases has actually dropped the last two days as has the number of coronavirus deaths. The shift is small, but it does portend better days.

Put more simply, it’s not nearly time to bet against the current Illinois numbers. What do I like to say? That’s right! Keep up the good work!



Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Back on track!

I wuz gonna take today off, particularly if the most recent numbers were troubling, but since they reinforce the prevailing downward trend, let’s take a quick look:

Date     Total Cases     % Increase

3/17           161
3/18           288              78 percent
3/19          422               46.5 percent
3/20          585               37 percent
3/21          753               29 percent
3/22       1,049              39 percent
3/23       1,285              22.5 percent
3/24       1,535              19.5 percent
3/25       1,865              21.5 percent
3/26       2,538              37 percent
3/27       3,026              19 percent

So, yes! Reported coronavirus cases are still increasing in Illinois, but, because Shelter in Place is working, the rate of transmission continues to decelerate and the curve continues to flatten.

Facts Not Fear

The daily differences in those percentages may also be decreasing, but as we’ve already discussed, those small changes will come back in the form of much larger dividends later.

The recent numbers also mean that, unless there’s a change in coronavirus containment strategy, we’re in this for the long haul.

Illinois also reports 34 coronavirus deaths bringing our mortality rate – for people who had the virus – to 1.1 percent, a very small tick upward. Beware, that this is a lagging indicator which may soon move upward.

Here are the applicable new national case numbers:

New York           46,242
New Jersey         8,825
California            4,905
Washington        3,700
Michigan             3,657
Massachusetts   3,240
Florida                3,198
Illinois                 3,026
Louisiana            2,746

Please note that Illinois, with our reported case flattening curve, has dropped to 8th place on the “leader board,” which is a really good short-term sign, especially when you consider Chicago’s population density.

And I say “short-term” because we’re all connected and if other states don’t keep the lid on this, it will eventually come back to bite us.

My fondest wish is that today’s number is equally encouraging. Please! Keep up the good work!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Not the best day!

While it’s far more pleasant to bring you encouraging fact-based news, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of it yesterday. To wit, as a result of the continuing coronavirus surge in New York and New Jersey, the U.S. just surpassed China and Italy to take the dubious honor of the global coronavirus case lead.

Then, just to depress us a little more, that downward Illinois trend took a bit of a blow with 683 newly reported cases. Given our consistent statistical math application, that’s a 37 percent new case increase over the previous day.

But the icing on the COVID-19 cake had to be Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s press conference where she announced she foresaw 40,000 Chicago hospitalizations in “the next few weeks,” further emphasizing, “Not 40,000 cases, but 40,000 people who require acute care in a hospital setting.”

It’s almost as if George R. R. Martin has taken over writing those press releases. What’s next Mayor? Fire breathing dragons trashing Wicker Park?

Facts Not Fear 2

Short of throwing in the towel and running around the block naked with “The End is Near” scrawled in fluorescent pink Sharpie on your stomach, what’s a news story shell-shocked “shelter-in-place” coronavirus recluse supposed to do?

I’m certainly glad you asked that question, because the I would suggest starting with applying even more critical thinking. So, let’s do our damndest to summon up our inner Mr. Spock and employ a little of that legendary Vulcan logic to our current situation.

And we’ll start with those U.S. numbers (I’ll be a little more careful today). As of 7:38 a.m., according to the website

New York                    38,977

New Jersey                  6,876

California                     4,052

Washington                 3,207

Michigan                      2,856

Illinois                         2,538

Florida                         2,484

Massachusetts              2,417

Louisiana                     2,305

So, New York and New Jersey account for 53.5 percent of our national cases and, despite the Second City Mayor’s pronouncement, statistically, no other state is headed in that direction anytime soon. Could that change? Of course it could, but it remains highly unlikely at this point.

Despite the blow New York City has been dealt, the Chicago Tribune just reported that Big Apple hospital beds remain available! That may not be the case for long, but that’s still a good sign. The City is fervently working to expand that capacity as we speak.

And while our national coronavirus mortality rate sits at 1.5 percent, New York comes in at 1.2 percent, which is 20 percent better.

Now, for those illuminating Illinois numbers!

Date     Total Cases     % Increase

3/18         288

3/19         422                46.5 percent

3/20         585                37 percent

3/21         753                29 percent

3/22      1,049                39 percent

3/23      1,285                28 percent

3/24      1,535                22.5 percent

3/25      1,855                21.5 percent

3/26      2,538                37 percent

With 26 deaths, the Illinois mortality rate remains at 1 percent, 50 percent better than the national average.

No one wanted to see that 37 percent number rear its ugly head, but the silver lining there is, we haven’t returned to the daily doubling case rate days of early March. Furthermore, we endured a similar blip on March 22nd that was likely the result of more widespread testing. That could certainly be the case here, too.

So, let’s all take a deep breath and see what happens over the next two-to-three days before we proceed with the whole naked running and scrawling thing.

With all that entered into the record, let’s move on to our pièce de résistance, Ms. Lightfoot’s peculiar press statement, because as one attending reporter exclaimed, “That’s insane,” and it is!

To test that 40,000 possibility, the first thing we have to do is determine what percent of coronavirus sufferers are hospitalized. Using the 3,612 “serious or critical” current Italian cases, their hospitalization rate would appear to be 6 percent.

But then my municipal mathematical expert says our local governments are employing a worst-case 15 percent hospitalization rate for planning purposes. So, let’s go with the more difficult number! Even then, in order to reach that 40,000 occupied hospital bed mark, 265,518 Chicagoans will have to develop the disease – within the next three weeks!

That’s three times the number of current countrywide cases.

But wait! There’s more! Remember! Mayor Lightfoot said, “Not 40,000 cases, but 40,000 people who require acute care in a hospital setting,” And hospitals generally define “acute care” as the ICU, cardiac care units, and similar serious settings.

To that end, the CDC released figures this morning that, while the data is still incomplete, would indicate the U.S. ICU care percentage for hospitalized coronavirus folks, aged 0 to 64, is 20 percent. That means for Lightfoot’s macabre “dream” to come true, 1.3 million total Second City dwellers would have to be infected in the next three to four weeks.

That absurd number absolutely dwarfs the current 553,000 worldwide coronavirus cases that took months to reach. My best guess is, after this week’s lakefront social distrancing failure debacle, the Mayor is trying to terrify Chicagoan into staying home. But that ain’t the way to do it. Again, if you leave your constituency with no hope, then why should they bother with further precautions?

To that end, it is truly troubling to read the increasing number of Facebook posts from folks who write their children are crying at news reports, they’re feeling completely hopeless, while other are falling into a deep depression.

Then there are the readers who tell me my Roving Reports are the only thing that’s keeping them sane. While I love the complement, and I will do my best to continue to lend a journalistic hand, that’s a wee bit more responsibility than this middle-school-minded writer is accustomed to.

I’ve been advising those who reach out to me to take control of what you can control and let go of what you can’t.

I know it’s not easy, but you can control your home environment and continue to practice safe social distance when you do have to go out. Then, TURN OFF THE TV! News stations sow fear by bringing you the worst-case scenarios because they get ratings. It’s not reality by any stretch.

My favorite mathematical friend asked me if I watched Mayor Lightfoot’s press conference, a question which solicited a resounding, “No!” I choose NOT to further depress myself and I would encourage you to do the same. If you find yourself reaching a breaking point, I would be happy to recommend a therapist who’s quite good with phone sessions. Please PM me if you’re interested. I’m sure your friends will have similar recommendations.

Many of you know I’m truly enjoying the top 50 all-time jazz albums. I’ve made it to number 24, John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps,’ and I promise that you can’t get depressed listening to Trane!

If you promise to be good, go ahead and turn on the TV and avail yourself of a slew of stellar Netflix standup specials which include, but aren’t nearly limited to:

  • Marc Maron
  • Dave Chappelle
  • Tom Segura
  • Nikki Glaser (bleepin’ hilarious, but don’t let the kids watch)
  • Taylor Tomlinson
  • Gabriel Iglesias
  • Tom Papa
  • Katherine Ryan (my favorite!)
  • Bill Burr

and so many more! It’s hard to be depressed when your laughing. Then, when you’re done, take a long walk!

As an avid military historian, I’m watching Netflix’ ‘World War II in Color!’ Not only is it an amazingly thorough documentary series, but compared to what those European and Asian folks had to go through fighting fascism, we still have it pretty good.

Lastly, in deference to the folks who are truly having difficulty with this new reality, please, no more negative comments on my Roving Reports. I don’t mind questions, the general conversation, I appreciate readers who keep me honest, and I love it when you beat me to the accurate math punch.

But if you feel the need to be negative and insist we’re all gonna die tomorrow, go ahead and issue your own post, but I will no longer allow that kind of coat-tailing on mine. I appreciate your understanding.

So, yesterday, the news wasn’t the best. Let’s not let that bump in an already bumpy road affect our efforts to contain the coronavirus in the least. As always, keep up the good work!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – The downward trend persists!

And every day it does makes that baseline much more statistically significant. Again, I’m not saying we aren’t seeing new Illinois coronavirus cases, but the 24-hour percentage increase, with the exception of March 22, has decreased every day since March 18.

Facts Not Fear

Put more simply, when COVID-19 first hit the Land of Lincoln, reported cases doubled every day. Then, they doubled every two days, and now it takes three days for them to double. And just like that halcyon compound interest, those small decreases will continue to pay larger down-the-road dividends.

So, here’s the latest data:

Date     Total Cases  % Increase

3/17          161

3/18          288             78 percent

3/19          422             46.5 percent

3/20          585             37 percent

3/21          753             29 percent

3/22       1,049             39 percent

3/23       1,285             22.5 percent

3/24       1,535             19.5 percent

Though I’m sure you can see how the curve is flattening, for illustration purposes, let’s compare it to one in which cases actually did double every day. That data would look like this:

4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, and so on!

But the Illinois curve looks a lot more like this:

4, 7, 10, 14, 18, 25, 31, 37

which is a heck of a lot better! Again, those early small percentage decreases are already showing up at the end of our sequence. I’ll take 37 over 512 in this infections regard any day!

Illinois reports 16 coronavirus deaths bringing our mortality rate – for people who had the virus – to just over 1 percent.  Here are the most applicable new national numbers:

New York         26,430

New Jersey        3,675

Washington       2,469

California          2,617

Michigan           1,791

Illinois               1,535

Florida               1,467

Louisiana          1,388

New York state continues to be a rather odd outlier with their death toll of 271 coming in at more than double the next highest state.

Meanwhile, I was a little surprised by a vocal minority of Facebook commenters who fervently believed my math was abundantly wrong, and others who insisted there are host of untested and asymptomatic folks out there who will eventually send us skyrocketing into New York territory.

Please allow me to issue some stipulations in those and a few other regards:

1. Unless I’ve made an obvious multiplication or division error, questioning my math skills will get you nowhere, and I really don’t want to hear it.

First, psychology majors are expected to fully understand statistics. Second, I was a database consultant for 20 years and my SQL programming compatriots will readily attest it’s all math. Third, I continue to apply statistics in political campaigns, and I’ve certainly done alright in that regard. Lastly, not only is my wife a math teacher, but one of my best coronavirus sources is what can only be described as a professional math geek.

2. Please do not attempt to turn these Roving Reporter posts into a political proposition. That response will be swift and sure.

3. Unless you have solid evidence of a vast infected and unreported horde, the fact that you wholeheartedly believe one exists does not nearly amount to proof. All that kind of thing doesn’t is further terrify the already truly terrified. Though no one can prove that gaggle is fiction, if it weren’t Illinois would have far more than 16 coronoavirus deaths!

4. Please remember that I don’t get paid for any of my journalistic efforts! And even though I was drawn into debates like a moth to a flame yesterday, going forward, if you seriously disagree with me, please do it on your own time and issue a separate post. I generally enjoy any and all commentary, but let’s stay positive here.

5. As a 14-year journalist, what I’m trying to do with these fun and factual Roving Reporter posts is provide reasonably fearful folks with reasonable, but not false, hope, based on facts and an accurate statistical analysis. Because when you give them hope, they will continue to participate in our collective coronavirus effort which, so far, seems to be working.

Conversely, if people have no hope, then why bother trying? Please keep that in mind BEFORE you add an unnecessarily negative comment.

But back to the issue at hand! The Illinois outlook continues to be hopeful, so please keep up the good work!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – More good news!

I promised you some good news this morning, but before we go there, you, in turn, have to promise me you’re not gonna take what I’m about to say as license to drop your guard and completely misbehave! To wit, Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people just a stone’s throw from mainland China, was lauded as a model for coronavirus containment, having suffered just 150 cases.

But then they allowed the people who fled the island in fear to return, and now their coronavirus cases have doubled in the past week. And when you have that mass of humanity crammed into a 427 square mile area, it’s not a very encouraging sign.

Honk Kong officials are working to re-contain the virus

So now that we understand each other, let’s review the latest Illinois coronavirus curve:

Date     Total Cases  Deaths    % Increase       Mortality Rate

3/17          161

3/18          288                         78 percent

3/19          422                         46.5 percent

3/20          585                         37 percent

3/21          753                         29 percent

3/22       1,049                         39 percent

3/23       1,285            12         22.5 percent        .9 percent

My fear was the 39 percent Friday to Saturday percentage increase was the start of a new upward trend, but even though we’re not nearly out of the woods yet, the most recent 22.5 percent rise is more in line with our general downward progression.

Facts Not Fear

Starting March 19, if we eliminate the probable 3/22 noise and subtract the current day’s increase from the previous, we get a mathematical sequence that looks like this:

-9.5, -8, -6.5

You see it, right? Simply subtract 1.5 from the previous number to get the newest array member. Though I’d certainly like to see more data before making any final proclamation, the odds of this numeric series being purely random are pretty slim.

I know there’s a way to test for randomness in a set, and I’m sure I knew how to do it at one time, but while I regularly apply mathematics to the candidates I manage, those University of Loyola statistics classes are a somewhat distant memory.

Put more simply, I tend to deal with pattern recognition and not standard deviations these days.

A much clearer indication of our state’s coronavirus containment success is to compare our case totals to other states:

New York         21,689

New Jersey        2,844

Washington      2,223

California          1,733

Michigan           1,328

Illinois               1,285

Florida               1,237

Louisiana          1,172

Illinois has already dropped to from fourth to sixth place, and Florida is on a trajectory to pass us today or tomorrow.

Meanwhile, astute readers continue to consider the possibility of a large pool of unreported cases eventually skewing the Illinois curve. But the problem with their theory is, it’s virtually impossible to have two equal and somewhat opposite trends.

Please allow me to explain!

The reported cases are generally the more serious ones where those with the ailment visit their doctor or some other medical facility for care. That’s how they’re counted. And we’re overly concerned with those folks because, left unchecked, the difficult cases would quickly overwhelm our ICU beds and ventilators.

If there was a vast pool of asymptomatic and silent Illinois sufferers, they would be infecting others at an alarming rate, which would directly lead to higher daily serious coronavirus percentage case increases, not smaller ones.

The only other statistical possibility would be that successful social distancing is offsetting the potential unreported masses. So, whether we agree on that possibility or not, the numbers indicate that we invariably end up in the same place!

Again, if we let down our guard just like Hong Kong did, that trend will quickly reverse, so keep up the good work Illinois!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Staying fit – physically and mentally!

First Ward Your Roving Reporter – Staying fit – physically and mentally!

Trust me, no one better than me understands the beyond bizarre proposition of Jeff Ward somehow becoming the voice of positive reason. I fully expect to see Rod Serling’s gleaming visage pop up in the downstairs bathroom mirror before the day is over.

But strange times call for stranger measures, and my circle of close friends knows I generally embrace a positive outlook. Why would I make the effort to change the planet – or at least Kane County – if that weren’t the case?

Aside from some rather hopeful Illinois coronavirus case numbers, the most positive thing I’m seeing is the incredible number of people – particularly couples and families – who are suddenly talking long walks together.

My long-time readers are well aware of how I’ve plied those Fisher Farms asphalt paths, sometimes twice a day, for 20 long years. But prior to this spring, my internal running joke was to tally how many consecutive walks/runs I could get in without passing a single human being.

On some winter weeks that count would hit double digits.

Take a Walk

But yesterday (Sunday March 22), my lovely wife and I encountered at least 25 people along our two-mile jaunt in that 25-degree weather. That was a Fisher Farms record, and it was astounding and heartening to see so many people getting exercise in the crisp fresh air!

Before and beyond the coronavirus era, a British longitudinal (long) study proved that runners’ and brisk walkers’ bodies are 20 years medically younger than their couch potato counterparts. So, a 60-year-old walker has the internal constitution of a sedentary 40-year-old.

Better yet, every doctor on the planet will tell you that, not only is exercise the best defense against any disease, but the inevitable endorphin release has a magical effect on your mood, not to mention that aerobic endeavors tend to clear your mind.

Think about it! The only time you’ll ever see a depressed runner is when he or she can’t run!

Then there’s this one!

Per every mental health professional I’ve ever spoken with, with the exception of introverts like yours truly, Homo Sapiens is the kind of critter that requires regular social interaction. And even though social media can suck at times, it does provide us with a unique mechanism to stay in touch during a somewhat strange “shelter in place” pandemic.

I’m seeing people host video watch parties, virtual happy hours, and, of course, you have your favorite First Ward roving reports among others. I have stopped “following” the Facebook doomsayers as a matter of psychological self-defense, but that’s about as far as the negative possibilities go.


Though it’s kinda difficult to do right now, please do your best to avoid going into survival mode! It’s not where we are and that kind of base instinctual response creates a level of stress that makes you much more susceptible to getting sick. We’re not at war, and while the economic fallout might mean a somewhat difficult recovery, if we stand together as we have in the past, you’ll be surprised how quickly we will come back from this!

What I can tell you is, whenever I’m feeling a sense of lack, I immediately shut it down by starting a daily gratitude list of at least five things that make me happy. If I had to do it right now it would include:

  • Having a truly amazing group of friends for an introvert
  • Being in the best health I’ve ever been
  • Getting to do what I love to do every day
  • My 43 autographed baseballs (Dick Allen just came today!)
  • A family I can count on

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna go all New Agey on you, but these kinds of crises do have an amazing capacity to remind us of what’s truly important in life – and what isn’t!

Lastly, take this rather unique opportunity to accomplish the more solitary goals your formerly busy life has prevented you from accomplishing. Read every Sherlock Holmes short story (2,000 paperback pages), Moby Dick, or renew your love for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.

Better yet! Write something yourself!

Knock those things off your “honey do” list, clean out the basement, pull your old vinyl jazz albums and turntable out, go through your closest to determine what can be donated, and call those long-distance friends with whom you haven’t spoken in a while.

My new semi-long-term propositions are to read all seven volumes (3,418 pages) of Marcel Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ and to listen to the top 50 jazz albums of all time. I’m on number seven, ‘Somethin’ Else’ by the legendary Cannonball Adderley.

The bottom line is, it’s much more difficult to fall into a coronavirus depression or panic when you make an effort to remain active and positive. And every last option we’ve discussed today has been scientifically proven to boost your immune system.

We will get through this!

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – Good news!

This is your First Ward Roving Reporter with some good news!
So let’s get right to it! The statistical trend we discussed yesterday has, so far, proven to be no fluke. And BTW, I did make an error in that piece. My medical source and I talked early Friday morning, which means we discussed the Wednesday to Thursday coronavirus numbers, not the Thursday to Friday stats as appeared to be the case.
But thankfully that doesn’t change the Illinois theory:
Date      Total Cases     % Increase
3/18           288
3/19           422               46.5 percent
3/20           585               37 percent
3/21           753               29 percent
If you recall, March 19 was the first day Illinois coronavirus cases didn’t double, or hit the 50 percent increase mark. Now, we’re not even coming close to that magic number, which is a really good sign that’s buoying the hearts and spirits of Illinois medical providers everywhere.
Facts Not Fear
Though, I certainly don’t wish ill on anyone, for reference purposes, it’s important to note that we’re doing far better than California and New York in this containment regard.
PLEASE DON’T get me wrong, as one reader insisted on doing yesterday. I am not advocating for anyone to run down Randall Road kissing random strangers in celebration! We need to continue to be vigilant and diligent in fighting the spread of this disease! But what these kinds of percentage decreases mean is, unless there’s some radical chance going forward, we’ll be back to Vargo’s Dance classes sooner rather than later.
So, why are containing the coronavirus better than those other states? I fervently believe there’s something a bit saner about Midwesterners, and particularly my Chicago metropolitan area compatriots.
If you go back as far as I do, you’ll most certainly recall watching those long 1973 gas station lines on the evening news. We called it the “Energy Crisis,” but it was actually an OPEC oil embargo.
But the fascinating thing was, given the eminently calmer nature of Midwesterners, there were no such lines in Illinois. We simply chose not to panic!
Some of you also mentioned these case numbers might be a bit off due to a lack of widespread coronavirus testing. Though there’s certainly something to be said for that, the “reported” and more serious cases should be our main concern, because they’re the ones that, left unchecked, might overwhelm our ICU beds.
As long as we continue to practice effective social distancing, it doesn’t matter who has the coronavirus, the number of transmissions will continue to decrease which will, as everyone’s saying, “flatten the curve.” And those percentage decreases will pay much larger dividends later.
I also want to thank all the concerned readers who admonished me for going to Meijer, Trader Joe’s and Walgeens in just two days. Per one reader’s suggestion, today I will maintain a virtual Roving Reporter presence, the height of which will be a two mile walk with my lovely wife and the doggies.
Meanwhile, just as I said yesterday, let’s “keep up the good work!”

Your First Ward Roving Reporter – What’s real and what isn’t!

Yesterday we talked about facts over fear and I truly appreciate all the responses to that piece because you all “got it!” The coronavirus era may not be my idea of a good time, but it doesn’t mean the sky is about fall anytime soon, either.

The problem is, between that persistent news media Chicken Littleness, and all the sudden social media prophets with their portents of doom, it’s gonna take a lot more than yours truly to turn this tempestuous tide.

Put more simply, I’m duly deputizing each and every one of you to aid me in my pursuit of bringing critical thinking back, because we collectively need to push back against the panic which will make this pandemic worse on every level.

So, lets examine some of unfortunate memes and stories that have been thrust upon us in just the last 24 hours. And the first is that photo of Italian Army trucks transporting coffins to be cremated as that country’s coronavirus death toll surpasses China’s.

All I can say is, there are times I truly wish a picture wasn’t worth a thousand words.

Corona Virus

Again, Italy is the second oldest country on the planet which makes them particularly susceptible to this disease, and as the Tribune reported this morning, 87 percent of the Italians who perished were over 70 years old.

The death toll there is further exacerbated by an overwhelmed health care system such that doctors have been forced to provide ventilators only to patients under 80. Worse yet, according to the Chinese experts currently working with the Italian government, that country still isn’t taking this pandemic seriously, so it’s become somewhat of a perfect storm there.

Then we have California Governor Gavin Newsom claiming 56 percent of his state will be infected within eight weeks.

I’ve thoroughly reviewed the CDC worst case coronavirus curves this morning, and unless Californians start randomly kissing each other on the street, there’s no way more than half of the state can contract that disease in two short months.

If that was the case, considering what the virus has done there, 35 million Italians would already have it and not the current 41,000.

Could California eventually go there? With no suppression efforts, of course! But even then, it would take at least a year for it to fully pan out, not eight weeks! We’re still below China’s initial infection curve, which means the Governor’s statement is patently false and beyond reckless.

My best guess is, Newsome is trying to get Californians to take this much more seriously, but as we all know, making dire “sky is falling” pronouncements tends to solicit an equal and opposite reaction which actually undermines our collective efforts to flatten the curve.


Another meme declares an Iranian is dying every 10 minutes, which is true, but what they fail to mention is that’s an interim statistical peak and their total death toll still stands at only 1,284. That country also faces the kind of severe sanctions that mean medical providers are treating victims without masks. Their citizens, who don’t trust their authoritarian government, are ignoring quarantines and travel restrictions.

If the Iranians continue down that path, as you might imagine, it will get much worse.

And lastly, European and American doctors are suddenly saying that half of covid-19 ICU beds are occupied by folks under 50. First, please note that it’s NOT half of the total cases, it’s 50 percent of hospital patients who require critical care.

It’s very important to make that distinction.

Again, what those sound bites don’t impart is the following, according to the CDC:

  • 0               percent of ages 0 to 19 hospitalizations require ICU care
  • 2 – 4.2      percent of ages 20 to 44
  • 4 to 10.4  percent of ages 45 to 54
  • 7 to 11.2  percent of ages 55 to 64

And the hospitalization stats range from 1.6 percent for 19-year-olds and under, to 20 to 30 percent for coronavirus sufferers aged 55 to 64. So, the number of ICU admission is actually quite small, but when you extrapolate them across the entire U.S. population, our ICUs would be quickly overwhelmed if the disease progress unchecked.

Another factor in these younger ICU entries is, per Trump administration experts, young folks aren’t taking this pandemic very seriously. We’ve all seen the photos of packed Florida beaches and hosts of New Orleans Mardi Gras revelers. Then, fully believing themselves to be immortal, when they do get the disease, they don’t seek medical care until it’s kicking their posteriors.

So! Now that you’re part of our new critical thinking force, please logically push back against those news reports and social media scions who would have folks believe their death is imminent, because nothing could be further from the truth.

Please don’t get me wrong! I’m not trying to minimize anything, I’m simply trying to put our current situation in perspective!

Meanwhile, let’s keep up with the social distancing and hand washing, and I promise I’ll get back to the lighter and more humorous posts, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

The First Ward Roving Reporter – Facts, not fear!

(For those who were unaware, I’ve been posting Roving Reporter coronavirus pieces on various Facebook group pages. Given their unexpected popularity, I’ve decided to post them here, too. Though this one may be tomorrow’s Quick Hits.)


FDR famously proffered it’s the only thing to fear. Gavin De Becker called it a gift! So, which is it? Much like the indeterminate fate of Schrodinger’s cat, it’s both!

If, while shopping at Meijer, someone gets a bit too close and your spider sense makes you reflexively back off, that fear is a good thing. But if you run down ten pregnant women and twelve small children in an effort to hoard the last eight packages of Charmin, that fear is a problem.

What distinctly separates Homo Sapiens from animals is our capacity to manage fear. My eldest dog Oreo’s survived hundreds of thunderstorms, but despite that repeated reality, she’ll tremble and stick to me like glue when the next one rolls around.

Trust me! I do understand that, when it comes to managing our instinctual trepidation, the media doesn’t make it easy! It’s like having to endure thunderstorm after thunderstorm after thunderstorm.

To wit, today’s CNN bold Net coronavirus headline blares, “U.S. cases soar by 40 percent,” which makes you want to cower in the crawlspace. Of course they did! When there are just 6,400 (reported) nationwide cases, all it takes is a mere 2,600 more for that number to jump by 40 percent.

And a great part of that spike is coronavirus test kits are suddenly becoming more available, but CNN doesn’t tell you that!

Facts Not Fear

Think about it this way! If your local political campaign has ten volunteers, it’s not too terribly difficult to acquire four more. But if you have 100 helping hands, finding another forty is highly unlikely. We call it “the law of diminishing returns.”

So, when you’re in the early stages of a pandemic, those seemingly “soaring” increases are exactly what the experts expect. Even President Trump’s guy explained that, while the curve will inevitably rise, they’re counting on social distancing to flatten it and save our health care system.

But most of us don’t understand probability and that fear is compounded by the media consistently cherry picking outliers for the ratings spike. We like to think that, five heads in a row means there’s no shot of George Washington showing up a sixth time. But like it is with every flip of that shiny new quarter, there’s a 50 percent chance it will turn up heads.

If you want to better understand probably and the incredible Second Law of Thermodynamics, I’d highly recommend Brian Greene’s newest book, ‘Until the End of Time.’ The worst thing that can happen is it will take your mind off the pandemic.

He explains probability this way. If you shake a box of 100 pennies, there’s a remote  possibility they’ll all turn up tails. If you shook the same box again, you’re a million times more likely to get 99 tails and one head. Shake it one more time and you have a billion billion billion better odds of seeing 50 tails and 50 heads.

But despite that irrefutable math, human nature inexplicably favors underdogs, bad bets and longshots. But now that we better understand probability, let’s take a closer look at China’s Hubei province where this whole thing started.

Of its 60 million inhabitants, only 68,000 caught the virus and that’s after China had completely botched their initial response. If you consider the number of unreported cases, that means just .2 percent of that province was infected.

Of those Hubei-ians with the coronavirus, only 3,122 perished. That puts the mortality rate at 4.6 percent or one in 23. Of those who died, 80 percent were 60 or older, and 75 percent of them had a preexisting condition like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

And here’s what the media doesn’t tell you! Hubei province has an incredible 45 percent smoking rate, and smokers do not fare well with the coronavirus. They also play host to some of the worst air pollution on the planet. So, even in a province where health care is iffy and almost half the population smokes, the average resident stood a .005 percent chance of dying from the disease.

And that number would further plummet if you counted the suspected number of unreported cases

Meanwhile, in the U.S., where our leaders chose not to fully prepare for it, we have 9,000 reported cases with 149 deaths. What that means is, the mortality rate, FOR PEOPLE WHO HAD THE DISEASE is 1.6 percent, less than half that of Hubei. Again, if we added the vast number of unreported cases due to lack of testing kits, it would likely be one-third that.

So, yes! American will die of the coronavirus. But if you’re under 65 with no preexisting condition and you don’t smoke, the odds of being one of ‘em are infinitesimal. “So, Jeff! It it’s not that bad, then why are we going through all the social distancing and shutting down stuff?”

That’s a great question! First, we’re trying to protect the elderly. Fifteen percent of our population is 65 or older, and if just five percent of them get sick, it will utterly overwhelm our hospitals and health care providers.

Our grandparents fought in World War I and survived the Spanish Influenza. Our parents survived the Great Depression and fought in World War II. And all we’re being asked to do is plant our butts on the couch and binge watch ‘Outlander?’ I’m not so sure the word “sacrifice” truly applies here.

Second, we’re trying to save health care workers’ lives. From what we’ve seen so far, the more you’re exposed to the coronavirus, the worse it will be when you catch it. My favorite medical source told me nurses are sending their children to live with relatives while wondering if they’ll ever see them again.

Now that you better understand the statistical realities, please let go of the irrational fear, keep up the social distancing, wash your hands, and show some real gratitude for those doctors, nurses, and grocery store clerks who are so selflessly serving on the front lines by doing your damndest to keep them healthy!