The First Ward Cornavirus Report – April 30, 2020

Again, if I was encouraged to add a more descriptive masthead here, I’d have to quote those great philosophers Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood by declaring “I’m feelin’ alright” about yesterday’s numbers.

So, let’s get right to ‘em!

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases    N Tested  Prevalence  Deaths 

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346           6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508            3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

4/22   35,108            6.1          2,049           9,350       1 in 4.6       1,565

4/23   36,934            5.2          1,826           8,969       1 in 4.9       1,688

4/24   39,658            7.3          2,724         16,315       1 in 6          1,795

4/25   41,777            5.3          2,119         11,985       1 in 5.6       1,874

4/26   43,903            5.0          2,126         12,975       1 in 6.1       1,933

4/27   45,833            4.4          1,930         13,096       1 in 6.75     1,983

4/28   48,102            4.9          2,269         14,561       1 in 6.4       2,125

4/29   50,355            4.6          2,253         14,478       1 in 6.4       2,215

A whopping 256,667 Illinoisans have been tested and we’re still in fourth place nationally. Of course, our third-best testing day led to our third-highest daily coronavirus count, but the prevalence tells us it’s taking more tests to find fewer positive results.

Facts Not Fear 3

The daily new case increase percentage backed off to 4.6 percent, with 5 percent becoming our new resistance level, and the five-day moving case average is starting to tell us something:

Date         5-day M Average

4/26                 2,169

4/27                 2,145

4/28                 2,234

4/29                 2,140

With the 28th being an outlier, I’m sure you can see the early stages of a trend.

Monday’s ICU bed gains were reversed, but we did free up one ventilator. Small victories, right? Please remember! These kinds of data points rarely travel in straight lines. They’re not as bad as trying to track a squirrel crossing Randall Road at rush hour, but there will always be “noise.”

That’s why the Governor’s 14 straight day down new case days mandate is such bovine manure. There will always be outlier days, and as testing becomes more available, the number of new cases will continue to rise. Pritzker should be looking at a new case moving average with a heavy dose of prevalence, instead.

Here’s the hospital data:

Date   ICU Beds     %+     Ventilators      %+

4/23       1,225                         709

4/24       1,244        1.5            763               7.6

4/25       1,267        1.8            772               1.1

4/26       1,249       -1.4            763              -1.1

4/27       1,245       -0.3            778               1.9

4/28       1,290        0.3            777              -0.1

Of course, the best news, once again, is our eminently flat mortality rate dropped a notch to 4.3 percent. So, I’m just gonna keep on saying it! This is clear and convincing evidence that we’re past that COVID-19 peak and headed towards the downside. Nothing else is possible!

To follow up on yesterday’s column, with Coroner Rob Russell refusing to do his job, I turned to the Kane County Health Department. And a high-level staffer told me that virtually all of his 51 individually listed Kane County coronavirus victims had a major “co-morbidity” factor.

Put more simply, it was the combination of the virus and a preexisting condition that killed them. Without that prior medical issue, they’d still be alive. Oh! And for clarification purposes, that Coroner’s list contained who died in Kane County hospitals whether they were county residents or not.

Next!

I want to express sincere gratitude to my friend Paul Stukel for turning off the comments on the majority of my Facebook coronavirus report posts. It’s not that I don’t occasionally enjoy the conversations, and perhaps it’s the pandemic, but some of y’all really are batshit crazy.

The fascinating thing is, with much of the “noise” now filtered out, the most common complaint is “You’re not a medical expert.” Though it’s not nearly my point, the irony of these critics ignoring how the WHO, medical professionals and virtually every epidemiologist got it wrong every step of the way, is not nearly lost on me.

And that irony is particularly fascinating when our seventh-grade math has accurately predicted the Illinois pandemic every step of the way.

You see, one of the most magnificent things about the universe is that arithmetic works the same for everyone at every point in spacetime. Better yet, you don’t need to be an “expert” in any particular field – baseball, pandemics, animal populations, or political campaigning – to correctly apply a statistical analysis. All that’s required is a basic understanding of how apply the eminently simple formulas.

Think about it! Do we really need to endure years of playing baseball at every level to calculate a batting average or ERA? No we don’t! This isn’t magic! Statistics works! And unlike so many of my frothing at the mouth critics, our only agenda here is the truth.

Stay safe!

The First Ward Cornavirus Report – April 29, 2020

Since I’m running out of creative column titles, let’s just apply the day’s date going forward! But if I was to label what will inevitably turn out to be another stellar journalistic achievement, it would be, ‘We’re getting better!’

Facts Not Fear 2

On to the table!

Date   Cases   % Increase N Cases  N Tested  Prevalence  Deaths 

4/14   23,247            5.5          1,222           4,848       1 in 4             868

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346          6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508            3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

4/22   35,108            6.1          2,049           9,350       1 in 4.6       1,565

4/23   36,934            5.2          1,826           8,969       1 in 4.9       1,688

4/24   39,658            7.3          2,724         16,315       1 in 6          1,795

4/25   41,777            5.3          2,119         11,985       1 in 5.6       1,874

4/26   43,903            5.0          2,126         12,975       1 in 6.1       1,933

4/27   45,833            4.4          1,930         13,096       1 in 6.75     1,983

4/28   48,102            4.9          2,269         14,561       1 in 6.4       2,125

After our second-best results day, 242,189 Illinoisans have now been swabbed, and despite that increased testing, it looks like we’ll be in fourth place nationally for the foreseeable future.

So, what’s the best news class? That’s right! The prevalence! You’ve clearly been paying attention!

It continues to back off faster than President Trump from the prospect of a Clorox IV. (I’m sorry! I just couldn’t’ resist!). After 18 straight days of sitting squarely between 1 in 4 to  in 5, yesterday’s 1 in 6.4 prevalence looks pretty damn good.

Our second-best testing day did lead to our second-best new case total, but it took 14,561 test results to get there. Again, with the more relaxed screening criteria, I’d really like to know the severity of these recent cases, but that data isn’t available because it doesn’t fit the Governor’s all-hope-is-lost narrative. So we have to rely on the number of COVID-19 occupied hospital bed and ventilators, instead:

Date   ICU Beds     %+     Ventilators      %+

4/23       1,225                         709

4/24       1,244        1.5            763               7.6

4/25       1,267        1.8            772               1.1

4/26       1,249       -1.4            763              -1.1

4/27       1,245       -0.3            778               1.9

For the second consecutive day, that ICU bed usage actually dropped! A 0.3 decline may not be much to write home about, but any day that ICU beds open up is a good day.

The next best news is, even though the Illinois mortality rate ticked up a notch to 4.4 percent, that’s still a tenth-of-a-percent below our high and it marks its 13th straight flat day. If we were heading into the coronavirus peak, that number, by its very lagging definition, would be steadily climbing.

As you might imagine, the daily new case percentage increase popped up a bit to 4.9 percent, but it’s still far closer to a new bottom than it is to a new top. The fact that today’s Chicago Tribune reported virtually all of Illinois’ temporary medical facilities are being closed due to lack of use, further supports the disease’s deceleration.

If there’s one thing I hope I’ve taught you by now, it would be that it always pays to take all of the possible variable into account. To that end, with the test result numbers regaining some consistency, our five-day moving average is starting to regain some meaning:

Date         5-day M Average

4/27                 2,169

4/28                 2,145

4/29                 2,234

Though we will need a few more data points before it can really tell us anything.

And we have some new Kane County numbers, too!

It may be more than a little morbid, but Kane County Coroner Rob Russell, a man who never tires of seeing his name in the newspaper, is releasing a weekly countdown of the age, gender and location of each KC casualty.

Like the great John Donne, I too mourn for anyone’s passing because every such loss diminishes me, but because those separate data points are meaningless, the Coroner is clearly creating this compendium simply to sow fear and raise his public profile.

But when those 51 deaths are compiled correctly, those numbers actually have a lot to say:

Age             Deaths      %

100                   1          0.2

90-99               14        27.5

80-89               13        25.5

70-79               10        19.6

69-65                 7        13.7

60-64                 3         5.9

59-50                 4         7.8

49-40                 1         0.2

39-0                   0         0.0

I’m sure you can already see that 82 percent of these deaths consist of people 65 or older.

The next logical step would be to determine how many of them had some sort of serious underlying or preexisting condition, and since the coroner ultimately determines the cause of death, he’s certainly the one to ask.

But after repeated attempts to reach him, not only did he ghost me, but he blocked my phone number, too! And he did that because, despite talking to every other journalist on the planet, my fact-based COVID-19 reality doesn’t match his self-imposed heroic narrative. When we know exactly who’s at risk, the Coroner’s Office won’t be getting any more press, will they!

If you doubt me, please take a look at Russell’s new “Medieval” office logo. Can you say “over-the-top?” I knew you could! So, I guess it’s FOIA time! The amount of political pandering permeating this pandemic is patently beyond the pale.

But if we consider New York City’s stats, it would be more than safe to say that 90 percent of those Kane County victims suffered from another medical condition that greatly contributed to their demise.

Beyond any and all reasonable doubt, we now know that, for 70-plus year olds with a compromised immune system, this disease is far more lethal than the flu. We know it’s  somewhat worse than the flu for similar folks between 55 and 64. But when you consider that scientifically proven asymptomatic horde, the mortality rate for people under 55 is 0.002 percent, which is nothing compared to the average annual flu’s 0.1 percent.

So, how many times do I have to ask this question? Why are we forcing everyone to stay home when we know exactly who we need to protect?

There’s only three ways this pandemic ends. The first is an asteroid strike, and I gotta say, the rabble’s irrational fear of critical thinking is makin’ me really start to like this possibility. The second would be to develop a vaccine, but that’s gonna take 18 months to two years, and if this insipid shutdown lasts that long, there will be nothing to come back to.

But that’s not the only problem with that one! If you can contract the coronavirus more than once, something the WHO’s been currently considering, then a vaccine, by it’s very definition, is a patently pointless proposition.

The third, and almost as effective as the asteroid method, is to develop a herd immunity. Even though Sweden has taken a boatload of bovine manure for taking that route, their leaders are saying they’re just one or two weeks away from achieving that countrywide condition.

And then the disease starts fading into nothing more than a really bad memory.

Meanwhile, most of us are locked down at home while our leaders dither over issues that have long since been settled. I’m not sure who said, “You can pay now of your can pay later,” but they certainly got the coronavirus pandemic right!

Please let me remind you that, before you show up with all the pitchforks and torches,  I’m a social liberal as well as one of those at-risk folks whose livelihood has been unaffected by shelter-in-place. It’s simply a matter of recognizing the truth and putting it out there!

Stay safe!

The First Ward Cornavirus Report – Another good day!

And it was a very good day across the board! Here are the numbers:

Date   Cases   % Increase N Cases     N Tested  Prevalence    Deaths 

4/14   23,247            5.5          1,222           4,848       1 in 4             868

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346           6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508            3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

4/22   35,108            6.1          2,049           9,350       1 in 4.6       1,565

4/23   36,934            5.2          1,826           8,969       1 in 4.9       1,688

4/24   39,658            7.3          2,724         16,315       1 in 6          1,795

4/25   41,777            5.3          2,119         11,985       1 in 5.6       1,874

4/26   43,903            5.0          2,126         12,975       1 in 6.1       1,933

4/27   45,833            4.4          1,930         13,096       1 in 6.75     1,983

Illinois has tested 227,628 citizens and we’re still in fourth place in the state rankings.

Facts Not Fear 3

But the best news was our second-best testing day led to only our fifth best new case day because the prevalence retreated again, this time to almost 1 in 7. In case you’ve forgotten, that means it took seven tests to generate one positive result and those kinds of disconnects mean we’re getting closer to the curve downside.

With expanded testing becoming more consistent, the daily new case percentage increase came in at our second lowest 4.4 percent, and I’m convinced it will continue to drop.

Then, to put that bright red cherry on the top of the Black Forest cake, the number of COVID-19 occupied ICU beds and ventilators actually dropped, likely for the first time since this thing started:

Date   ICU Beds     %+     Ventilators      %+

4/23       1,225                         709

4/24       1,244        1.5            763               7.6

4/25       1,267        1.8            772               1.1

4/26       1,249       -1.4            763              -1.1

By the way, if you want to see all ICU and ventilator use in the state, simply scroll down to the bottom of this IDPH page. A thank you goes out to reader Tom for noting this.

And just when you thought yesterday’s numbers couldn’t possibly get any better, the mortality rate dropped for the second time in three days, this time, to 4.3 percent.

So, the good news is there’s no bad news!

But if I had to pick the most fascinating news, it would be that downstate State Rep Darren Bailey got a southern Illinois judge to issue a restraining order freeing him from his shelter-in-place shackles. For now, the ruling applies only to the state rep himself and I’m sure it will be swiftly subject to appeal, but when his disaster declaration expired on April 9, Pritzker had no authority to extend it.

Before you come at me for the 3,942nd time, please remember I’m a social liberal, but we all have to follow the “rules,” right? The Governor fully exceeded his authority and anytime an elected official is allowed to get away with that it doesn’t bode well for future good governance.

If Bailey’s challenge survives the appellate and Illinois supreme court levels, and I believe it will, this absurd and completely counterproductive stay at home order will become a thing of the past, as will Governor Pritzker will in 2022.

Stay safe!

The First Ward Cornavirus Report – More of the same!

Put more simply, the number of new cases may look like they’re increasing, but that’s primarily a result of a far greater Illinois testing effort. Again, increased testing continues to produce fewer positive results as indicated by our short-term record 1 in 6.1 prevalence.

If you recall, less than a week ago, it took just 4.5 tests to produce a positive result.

With that in mind, let’s get right to the table:

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases      N Tested  Prevalence Deaths 

4/13   22,025            5.6          1,173           5,033       1 in 4.3          794

4/14   23,247            5.5          1,222           4,848       1 in 4             868

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346           6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508            3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

4/22   35,108            6.1          2,049           9,350       1 in 4.6       1,565

4/23   36,934            5.2          1,826           8,969       1 in 4.9       1,688

4/24   39,658            7.3          2,724         16,315       1 in 6          1,795

4/25   41,777            5.3          2,119         11,985       1 in 5.6       1,874

4/26   43,903            5.0          2,126         12,975       1 in 6.1       1,933

Our second-best testing day did, indeed, produce our second highest daily case total, but only by a scant 7 positive results, which made our daily new case percentage drop back to 5 percent. To put this in perspective, when the pandemic first hit Illinois, coronavirus cases doubled every day, but just a month later, it’s taking two weeks for the same thing to happen.

We’ve tested 214,592 citizens at this point, and due to that expanded testing, we moved up to fourth place in the national rankings.

Facts Not Fear

But the best news was, again, our mortality rate stood pat at 4.4 percent, and the mild increase in COVID-19 occupied ICU beds and ventilators support our decelerating disease trend:

Date   ICU Beds     %+     Ventilators      %+

4/23       1,225                         709

4/24       1,244        1.5            763               7.6

4/25       1,267        1.8            772               1.1

Since an astute reader asked, for reference purposes, Illinois hospitals offer 3,631 ICU beds and 3,326 ventilators. Though we’re still not nearly at capacity, but the Illinois Department of Health isn’t saying how many ICU beds and ventilators are being used by non-coronavirus patients.

Since one of our statistical mottoes is “nothing happens in a vacuum” and I’ve been regularly repeating “the cure can’t become worse than the disease,” per yesterday’s report, I do want to discuss how the fallout from the various state shutdowns will likely be far worse than anything the disease can produce.

First, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 26,000 Americans die due to a lack of health insurance every year, and with 30 million newly out-of-work Americans rendered insurance-less, that number is bound to skyrocket!

Then there’s the economic and mental toll.

Some suicide and substance abuse hotlines are reporting an 80 percent or more increase in March calls, and the folks who track suicide rates are convinced they’ll soon see a  pandemic spike, and that spike will likely last for years.

For those who do make it through this in one emotional and physical piece, the media’s persistent and unabashed fear peddling, the fear of the disease itself, and dealing with the kind of isolation most humans beings weren’t built to endure will exacerbate even the most minor preexisting condition and that unique stress will have a long-lasting impact.

Most of my generation grew up with grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, and we all know how that specter haunted them for the rest of their lives.

And please tell me, exactly what are we going to come back to? I’ve spoken with a number of Tri-Cities small business owners and they were beside themselves when the Governor extended the shelter-in-place order into May.

Not nearly every landlord is willing to forgo two month’s rent, the federal stimulus package isn’t helping the small businesses it was intended to help, and those business that do survive will have to rebuild their customer base at a time when many people will continue to retreat in fear of the virus.

Yes! Americans are resilient as one local elected official put it, but if you’re forced to close a business as a result of the shutdown, it’s probably not coming back. And small businesses employ 48 percent of this country’s workforce.

Not only did Dr. David Katz superbly cover much of we’ve been discussing here in his recent interview with Bill Maher, but he introduced the medical concept of “doing less harm.” As he put it, when you’re left with two bad choices – shelter in place or reopening the country – you always want to choose the option that does the least amount of damage.

Echoing the conclusion of myself and many readers,  Katz recommended making an immediate effort to protect the most vulnerable and then move to reopen the country. It’s an interview well worth watching.

So, aside from encouraging you to stay safe, I’m going to leave you with a passage from Bruce Springsteen’s remarkable song, ‘Devils and Dust.’

What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a powerful thing, baby
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust

 

The First Ward Cornavirus Report – Nothing unexpected!

In fact, yesterday was almost, but not quite, a carbon copy of Friday. To absolutely no one’s surprise, our second-best testing day led to our penultimate new coronavirus case day, but the rest of our stats are telling us we continue to move to the downside of that oft-discussed “curve.”

Facts Not Fear 3

So, here’s your favorite table:

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases     N Tested  Prevalence    Deaths 

4/12   20,852            8.7          1,672           7,956       1 in 4.75        720

4/13   22,025            5.6          1,173           5,033       1 in 4.3          794

4/14   23,247            5.5          1,222           4,848       1 in 4             868

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346           6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508            3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

4/22   35,108            6.1          2,049           9,350       1 in 4.6       1,565

4/23   36,934            5.2          1,826           8,969       1 in 4.9       1,688

4/24   39,658            7.3          2,724         16,315       1 in 6          1,795

4/25   41,777            5.3          2,119         11,985       1 in 5.6       1,874

201,617 Illinoisans have been tested. In light of the recent massive testing increase, we eked out Pennsylvania for fifth place in the state rankings, the prevalence seems to be seeking a new range, and the mortality rate DROPPED to 4.4 percent.

The Governor has repeatedly said he wants to see at least 10,000 tests a day, and it looks like that will be the case going forward. A First Ward roving reporter noted the Aurora Premium Outlet Mall, the newest National Guard testing site, was absolutely packed yesterday, so our daily testing number will likely continue to climb.

Again, the best measure of the pandemic was the Illinois mortality rate slipping a notch to 4.4 percent. This is especially good news when you consider it’s a two-week lagging indicator. Thankfully, people don’t immediately die of the disease.

The next best news is the prevalence continues to tell us our increased testing is finding fewer cases. Saturday’s new case number may be the second highest, but it took two times the recently eclipsed testing average to find all of ‘em.

The daily new case percentage increase settled down to a respectable 5.3 percent which, again, means more sick people aren’t leading to more sick people.

As we discussed yesterday, particularly in light of relaxed COVID-19 screening standards, I wish the State would track the severity of these new cases, but they don’t. That means we’ll have to rely on the Illinois Department of Public Health for the ICU and ventilator numbers:

Date   ICU Beds   %+     Ventilators        %+

4/24       1,225                         709

4/25       1,244        1.5            763               7.6

We need a few more data points before we get too excited about this one, but a scant 1.5 increase in coronavirus occupied ICU beds is certainly another good sign.

Put more simply, every last one of our indicators is signaling that the pandemic is loosening its grip. Illinois’ next logical step would be, per New York, to test random citizens to determine how prevalent and generally asymptomatic the disease really is.

Of course, using the words “Illinois” and “logical” in the same sentence is always a recipe for a vast disappointment, but hope does spring eternal!

Please also let me to remind you that there is no magic bullet here. A new study found that, not only is the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine ineffective against COVID-19, but it can kill you even faster. You never want to mess with ultraviolet light and most of us call injecting a body with disinfectants “embalming,” so you might want to avoid that too!

I don’t recommend people or businesses very often, but if you want to talk to someone who truly understands how to boost your immune system, I would highly recommend Larry Frieders, owner of The Compounder in Aurora.

We’re not talking New Agey bizarre remedies here, either! Larry and his staff believe in a balance of pharmaceuticals and scientifically proven supplements that have helped keep me healthy for the last five years. They are truly are a one-of-a-kind enterprise.

To be clear, I do not get paid for my journalistic efforts, the blog takes in no money whatsoever, it’s fun to watch all the hits but they’re meaningless, and the most I’ve ever received for one of my rare recommendations is a bottle of red wine. (Thank you Jamie Vargo!)

Alright! Tomorrow we will discuss how the shutdown toll will likely eclipse that of the coronavirus. Remember! Our favorite statistical motto is “nothing happens in a vacuum” and the cure will eventually prove to be far worse than the disease.

Meanwhile, please stay safe!

The First Ward Cornavirus Report – Now, that’s a lot of tests!

First, while I certainly enjoyed indulging the more (fact-based) opinionated side of myself yesterday – and all the associated hilarious Facebook banter that went along with it – let’s get back to straight reporting for the weekend.

I know I said we’d discuss the shutdown toll, but I forgot what day it was, which, I’m sure, comes as no surprise to anyone.

And second, the fact that Friday was our best testing day, by far, has thrown everything we’ve been doing here completely out of whack. It’s not that we still can’t glean something from the numbers, but we’ll have to shift our focus a bit to do that.

Facts Not Fear 4

So, let’s get right to those stats!

Date   Cases   % Increase N Cases  N Tested  Prevalence    Deaths 

4/11   19,180            7.2          1,293           5,252       1 in 4.1          677

4/12   20,852            8.7          1,672           7,956       1 in 4.75        720

4/13   22,025            5.6          1,173           5,033       1 in 4.3          794

4/14   23,247            5.5          1,222           4,848       1 in 4             868

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346           6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508            3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

4/22   35,108            6.1          2,049           9,350       1 in 4.6       1,565

4/23   36,934            5.2          1,826           8,969       1 in 4.9       1,688

4/24   39,658            7.3          2,724         16,315       1 in 6          1,795

I’m sure you see the elephant in the refrigerator – a whopping 16,315 test results came in in just one scant 24-hour period! That’s a wholly unexpected 74 percent increase over the previous testing record set just last Wednesday.

Yes! That testing high led to a 2,724 new daily case record which is exactly what we’d expect. But what have we been saying class? That’s right! The new case total only tells us people are still getting sick and nothing more.

To wit, if you take that larger number out of context, you get today’s unconscionable Chicago Tribune headline “Numbers keep climbing,” which while technically true, is only intended to sow further fear.

That headline reminds me of one of my favorite Craig Ferguson bits, “Calling Angelina Jolie a husband stealer is like calling Hitler a vegetarian. It’s true, but it’s hardly the f*****g story, is it?”

So, let’s look at the whole story starting with the prevalence which busted out of its tight range to fall back to 1 in 6. That means it took more testing to find fewer sick folks. To wit, for the last 18 days, 1 out of every 4.5 people tested, tested positive, but yesterday it was 1 in 6!

Now, that could mean, as the Governor said at yesterday’s press conference, they’ve relaxed the screening standards, or it could mean the disease is decelerating – or both! Either way, it’s a great sign!

So, no, Chicago Tribune! The only number that’s “climbing” is the number of tests, and that increased effort only uncovered folks whom we already suspected were sick.

If they have truly eased the testing standard, I’d love to know how many of those new cases were asymptomatic. But as far as I can tell, they’re not tracking that and I’m still striking out with those extensive hospitalization numbers my Springfield source previously provided, which would be the next best thing.

The third best thing is that the Illinois Department of Public Health does report the number of COVID-19 occupied ICU beds and ventilators being employed. So, in light of that massive testing leap, we’re gonna start tracking that with the expectation that more coronavirus cases aren’t necessarily leading to more occupied ICU beds.

Date    ICU Beds     Ventilators

4/24       1,225                709

As you might imagine, the daily new case percentage increase hit a twelve-day high, but again, it’s been rendered semi-meaningless by our vast testing bump. However, if you combine that 7.1 percent with the 1 in 6 prevalence, it’s solid evidence that the disease is not accelerating despite our increasing case total.

But what’s the one indicator we can always count on class? That’s right! The Illinois COVID-19 mortality rate. They can fudge a lot of things, but as I like to say, “They can’t hide the bodies!”

Now, some of my duly deputized statisticians have cogently noted that many coronavirus deaths are questionable. The Illinois “standard” seems to be that if you’ve tested positive for the disease and die, regardless of any other medical condition, it’s counted as a pandemic death.

While that will, without a doubt, artificially increase our mortality rate, as long as they stick to that “standard,” it will continue to be our best state-of-the-disease indicator.

And the fact that it remained at 4.5 percent yesterday is a great sign that our numbers are reasonably accurate and the disease is beginning to recede. Again, if there was an  seriously sick undiagnosed horde out there, just like in Michigan, our mortality rate would be inexplicably climbing.

Instead, it’s been reasonably flat for nine straight days.

So much for that “short” column I originally intended to write!

To summarize today’s coronavirus report theme, when viewed in a vacuum, the new daily case total is utterly meaningless. It’s tells us nothing about where we are on the “curve” and it makes is seem like the pandemic is accelerating when it’s not. Our numbers, when viewed as a whole, clearly indicate the disease is decelerating.

Please stay safe!

The First Ward Cornavirus Report – Still on track!

Now, I don’t want to get into the whole college campus “triggering” and “safe space” kind of thing, but in deference to the curious reader whose parents clearly dropped him on his head at a very young age, there will be some opinion involved going forward. But not nearly as much as you might expect from your average opinion columnist because my conclusions are always based on fact.

That said, I can’t tell you how delightful it’s been to see so many of you add news stories to these reports that clearly demonstrate you’ve been enjoying some critical thinking yourselves! Many more of you have noticed the possibilities we’ve been discussing for some time are starting to come to pass.

Facts Not Fear 3

To wit, New York’s Governor made a fascinating comment at a Thursday press conference. Having tested 3,000 random grocery store shopping New Yorkers, they discovered that 14 percent of these never-sick folks had coronavirus antibodies. To quote Andrew Cuomo, “Extrapolating the data, it’s likely 2.7 million people in the state have been infected, with a death rate of 0.5 percent.”

And he can “extrapolate the data” because 3,000 is a statistically significant sample size.

So, if you add the asymptomatic and mild cases into the mix as New York just did, with the exception of its effect on senior citizens, COVID-19 is only marginally worse than the annual flu.

Then, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin made me watch Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker’s 2:30 Thursday press conference, which begs the question, aside from getting him elected, what did I ever do to him? Though I will say that J. B. and his minions finally discussed many of the continuing collaborative topics featured here.

He noted the New York study, he said the Illinois curve and mortality rate were flattening, and he admitted that coronavirus casualties primarily consisted of the elderly. But then he inexplicably extended the patently unconstitutional shelter-in-place order – with slight modifications – for another month!

If we know the disease isn’t that deadly, and we know exactly who it kills, It’s beyond baffling that he could come to any other conclusion than to move to protect the elderly, and, within the bounds of reason, reopen the state.

And if we were smart enough to implement the kind of social services required to keep our senior citizens safe, some not-so-simple math says the already fewer than expected hospitalizations would further drop by half, completely sparing our medical professionals.

But no! Pritzker’s listening to his always fearful “experts” who use overly complex worst-case computer models while they can’t see that nearby tree, much less the entire forest. It reminds me of the story about the guy with the hammer who saw everything as a nail.

Then something else dawned on me during a discussion with one of the smartest attorneys I know. Borne of a bizarre messiah complex, these elected officials and epidemiologists have utterly fallen in love with their new power. They so desperately want to play the hero that they’re willing to destroy the state to “save” it.

It reminds of a lifeguard I encountered at Morse Avenue Beach in my youth. During that record heat summer, I’d take my border collie down to a breakwater to cool off. But one day, a lifeguard sprinted over 400 yards of vacant rocky sand just to tell me that dogs weren’t allowed on the beach.

The moral of that story is, if we cede our power to people who’ve never had real power, they will use it without any consideration of the consequences.

The truth is, people die every day! As I explained to Mayor Irvin, the CDC reports an astounding 99,000 Americans die of secondary hospital infections like MRSA EVERY BLEEPIN’ YEAR. But where’s all the fear and loathing? Where are the demands that hospitals be shut down – or at least be forced to clean up their act?

Meanwhile the U.S. COVID-19 toll likely won’t even reach that lofty annual number.

Yes! Almost 800 people under 50 have died of the virus, but 3,000 of that age group died from last year’s flu. Yet, the Courier-News is morbidly counting down every single Elgin coronavirus death, while completely ignoring the three citizens that die of other causes every single day.

To put this in perspective, most of us completely ignore the 1 in 6 chance of dying of obesity or 1 in 7 chance of dying of cancer, but we’re freaking out about a 1 in 200 possibility of dying of COVID-19?

Comedian Bill Maher called it “panic porn” and the media, and particularly newspapers, should be ashamed of themselves for so shamelessly preying on peoples’ fear in an effort to regain a relevancy they’ve long since lost.

When the COVID-19 smoke finally clears – and it will – a lot of elected officials are going to lose their jobs over an inexcusable exaggeration they’ve applied to feed their insatiable need for power and control.

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

Date   Cases   % Increase   N Cases   N Tested  Prevalence    Deaths 

4/10   17,887            8.7          1,445           6,670       1 in 4.6          596

4/11   19,180            7.2          1,293           5,252       1 in 4.1          677

4/12   20,852            8.7          1,672           7,956       1 in 4.75        720

4/13   22,025            5.6          1,173           5,033       1 in 4.3          794

4/14   23,247            5.5          1,222           4,848       1 in 4             868

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346           6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508            3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

4/22   35,108            6.1          2,049           9,350       1 in 4.6       1,565

4/23   36,934            5.2          1,826           8,969       1 in 4.9       1,688

Illinois has tested 173,316, the prevalence is doing its tight range thing, we’re still in sixth place nationally, and our other indicators are lining up exactly as we’d expect them to.

But the best new news is our second-best testing day led to just our third highest new case day. Those are the kinds of disconnects we’d expect to see as we approach the disease’s downside.

The next best measure is the still-flat mortality rate. We did tick up to 4.5 percent yesterday, but that fits right in with the last eight data points; 4.5, 4.4, 4.4, 4.3, 4.3, 4.3, 4.1, 4.2. Put more simply, it’s not popping up nearly as much as it once did.

The daily new case 5.2 percentage increase tells us, once again that, despite our recent record case numbers, the disease is not accelerating. Given that testing surge, I’d really like to know how many cases are mild to asymptomatic, but that data ain’t available.

But before we go, I want to remind that the “experts” and their essentially useless computer models called for 26 million California cases in eight short weeks, 40,000 acute Chicago hospitalization in “a few weeks,” and New York City said they’d need 58,000 hospital beds, but then it turned out to be just 14,500.

Again, it’s called critical thinking, and my core readers and I would love to see a whole lot more of you give it a shot!

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how the shutdown toll will be far worse than any havoc a virus might wreak!

The First Ward Cornavirus Report – Not nearly as bad as it looks!

Anytime we have a record coronavirus case day, it’s gonna be a cause for concern, particularly when we’re more than ready to see those numbers recede. But as we’ve regularly stipulated, the number of new cases only tells us we have more cases and nothing else.

So, let’s look at yesterday’s 2,049 positive results in context.

The first and foremost consideration is we obliterated the 7,956 single-day testing record set back on April 12. And we did it in style with 9,350 results coming back on Wednesday. That’s an 18 percent improvement over that previous high, and a whopping 41 percent better than our ten-day testing average.

Facts Not Fear 2

Please also note that yesterday’s prevalence still sits squarely in the middle of its range, which means one positive result for every 4.5 tests regardless of the number of tests provided. The fact that this range hasn’t budged in 17 long days would seem to indicate we’ve finally fallen into some sort of testing standard.

That means there can’t be the vast untested infected horde so many of you worried about at the outset of this pandemic. Remember, as long as you have a big enough sample size, countermanding trends within the same population cannot exist.

I would also suspect the prevalence will back off to somewhere around 1 in 8 as our capacity improves to the point where we can test the more mild or asymptomatic folks.

The next reasonable sign, of course, is our 6.1 new daily case percentage increase. That number has been in its own tight range recently signaling that more sick people aren’t necessarily leading to more sick people. The disease continues to decelerate, instead.

But the best indicator of statistical reasonability is, despite yesterday’s record case number, our mortality rate remained at a flat 4.4 percent. Given its lagging nature – people don’t immediately die of the disease – that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but if there was a large untested and seriously sick group, the death toll, by definition, would have to inexplicably rise.

Again, the testing stat may be subject to variations in standards between different medical facilities, but you can’t hide dead bodies. I’d really like to get my hands on the hospitalization numbers again, but that’s proving to be quite the challenge!

With all those caveats issued, here’s our two-week table:

Date   Cases   % Increase   N Cases    N Tested  Prevalence    Deaths 

4/9     16,422            9             1,344           5,791       1 in 4.3          528

4/10   17,887            8.7          1,445           6,670       1 in 4.6          596

4/11   19,180            7.2          1,293           5,252       1 in 4.1          677

4/12   20,852            8.7          1,672           7,956       1 in 4.75        720

4/13   22,025            5.6          1,173           5,033       1 in 4.3          794

4/14   23,247            5.5          1,222           4,848       1 in 4             868

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346           6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508           3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

4/22   35,108            6.1          2,049           9,350       1 in 4.6       1,565

164,347 Illinoisans have been tested and we’ve already discussed the prevalence and mortality rates.

Meanwhile, I want to thank the reader who noticed we moved up to sixth place in the state rankings on Tuesday, and we remained there yesterday. The good news there is, Illinois has the third lowest mortality rate in that top ten list. Only Florida’s and California’s are lower, despite Chicago accounting for almost half our cases.

That’s another reasonable sign that the disease isn’t accelerating here.

Sadly, our five-day new case moving average has been rendered meaningless by yesterday’s testing bump. If I had the time, it would be fascinating to develop some sort of new cases/testing moving average combination, but I don’t think it would tell us anything we don’t already know.

Perhaps one of you might like to take a crack at it!

Lastly, I want to thank all the readers who demonstrated their concern for this scurrilous columnist being raked over the Facebook coals by folks who fervently feel I’m evil incarnate. And I want to thank you even more for having the wisdom not to send me any screen shots of that collective third-grade meltdown.

First, after almost 14 years at the keyboard, I’ve gotten used to it. Second, those kinds of baseless diatribes only drive my “hits” through the roof to the tune of over 15,000 yesterday. Third, the irony of those frothing-at-the-mouth folks making me the most important person in their lives is never lost on me. In fact, it’s downright amusing.

And lastly, as one of my favorite former newspaper managing editors liked to say, if a columnist isn’t aggravating the bleep out of somebody, they’re not doing their job. But who knew the application of seventh grade math could become so controversial? I’m sure it can’t be me!

Until tomorrow!

The First Ward Report – The Elgin Mental Health Center is a Covid-19 Nightmare!

While I’ve certainly enjoyed providing a month’s worth of statistical and evidence-based Illinois coronavirus reports, I can’t tell you how good it feels to get back to political writing. Put more simply, I’ve enjoyed comforting the afflicted, but now it’s time to get back to the real work of afflicting the comfortable.

Because, in what will likely come as no surprise to anyone, the State of Illinois is not nearly practicing the coronavirus gospel they’re so zealously preaching. And their most massive lapse comes in the form of the Elgin Mental Health Center where the administrators are doing their damndest to infect the rest of Elgin.

EMHC

But rather than listen to me ramble on about an issue one more time, let’s hear it in sources’ own words! These are a string of quotes from a variety of inside sources:

Disposable masks were only issued after our first confirmed case at which point we were provided with one mask to use for seven days. The nurse manager held onto the box and logged when you received a mask.

We were finally issued a face shield and told that was the only one we’ll get. We’re always running low on soap and hand towels, too.

They finally started taking temperatures at the front door, but those nurses were not issued PPE other than gloves. (PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment)

Until the beginning of April, we were still receiving new patients into the UST unit directly from the jai. They were “screened” only by taking their temperature. (UST stand for “unfit to stand trial”)

We only have a five-day hold on new admissions even thought the COVID-19 incubation time is five to fourteen days and patients in other units regularly come into contact with these new admissions.

We’re still accepting admissions from the Cook County jail where there are numerous documented coronavirus cases and even deaths.

When a staff member tested positive, that unit was “quarantined.” However, staff members from that unit were detailed to other units to assist with coverage, and other units were allowed to send staff to that unit for coverage. The Director herself approved these staff transfers. Now numerous other units are under “quarantine” and this is still being practiced.

Personal hygiene in the UST unit is basically non-existent.

It was at this point that I approached Elgin Mental Health Center Director, Michelle Evans directly only to be sent to her boss at the Illinois Department of Human Services Communication Director, Meghan Powers, who assured me of her quick response.

But the terrifying tales continued to come in. Despite the following email in which EMHC administrators promised that masks would be readily available:

EMHC Letter

This is what my sources said:

When we received our mask, we were told we need to keep this one indefinitely because they do not know when we will get more, despite the email saying we would be provided with a new one daily.

But here’s my personal favorite:

The masks they gave us are garbage. They were recalled because they’re not FDA approved. So much for getting surgical masks daily.”

This would actually be an amazing comedy routine if the consequences for those nurses weren’t so potentially dire. Let’s continue:

They’re still moving e staff from quarantined units to non-quarantined units to cover shortages. [Expletive deleted] ridiculous!

Another unit just got quarantined and the nurse manager wasn’t even notified.

Though they’ve officially reported 20 cases here, the staff has only been informed of four.

Of course, as is par for the course, the “quick response” from the IDHS turned into no response.

So, despite Elgin’s best efforts to contain this pandemic, Elgin Mental Health Center administrators are clearly intent on undoing all that hard work. And the second most inexcusable thing is, when health care workers are consistently exposed to the disease, if they get it themselves, it tends to be a really bad case.

But the most inexcusable part of this is, sewn-to-J. B.’s hip Elgin State Rep Anna Moeller and State Senator Cristina Castro know exactly what’s going on at the EMHC, but they refuse to do a damn thing about it.

Moeller’s been far too busy contributing $57,800 to scandal plagued Speaker Mike Madigan’s legal defense fund to care about anything else. I had no ideal the Speaker was so destitute! Silly me! I thought he still reaped millions of dollars a year imposing property tax law and having his law firm fight those statutes on behalf of wealthy clients.

I wonder how many masks that 50 grand could’ve bought?

Meanwhile, in a truth is stranger than fiction turn, Castro’s new job is rooting out Illinois ethics issues while she supports beyond corrupt politicians like Elgin City Councilman and Springfield lobbyist Baldemar Lopez. Clean up Illinois? She can’t even deal with her own backyard!

And please tell me why is breaking this story up to me? Where the Courier-News, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times are in all this? On second thought please don’t the answer would be too depressing.

Call me crazy, but don’t I remember reading something about caring for the “least of our brothers?”

The First Ward Cornavirus Report – I’m starting to sound like a broken record!

But the news continues to be as good as the numbers have predicted, so who am I to get in their way. Put more simply, it’s table time!

Date   Cases   % Increase N Cases  N Tested  Prevalence    Deaths 

4/8     15,078            11.3        1,529           6,334       1 in 4             462

4/9     16,422            9             1,344           5,791       1 in 4.3          528

4/10   17,887            8.7          1,445           6,670       1 in 4.6          596

4/11   19,180            7.2          1,293           5,252       1 in 4.1          677

4/12   20,852            8.7          1,672           7,956       1 in 4.75        720

4/13   22,025            5.6          1,173           5,033       1 in 4.3          794

4/14   23,247            5.5          1,222           4,848       1 in 4             868

4/15   24,593            5.7          1,346           6,313       1 in 4.7          948

4/16   25,733            4.8          1,180           5,660       1 in 4.8       1,072

4/17   27,575            7.1          1,842           7,574       1 in 4.1       1,134

4/18   29,160            5.7          1,585           7,241       1 in 4.5       1,259

4/19   30,357            4.1          1,197           5,914       1 in 5          1,290

4/20   31,508            3.8          1,151           5,040       1 in 4.4       1,349

4/21   33,059            4.7          1,551           6,639       1 in 4.3       1,468

The Land of Lincoln testing total is now 154,997, our prevalence is prevalencing, we did pass Michigan to move up to six place state-wise, and the mortality rate ticked up just a notch to 4.4 percent. But the good news there is, that lagging indicator has flattened over the last six days and it certainly seems to be flirting with a downward turn. And once the mortality rate turns down, it’s the beginning of the end of this thing.

Facts Not Fear

Our daily new case percentage increase did pop up a bit to 4.7 percent, but that’s on the back of our fourth best testing day. The five-day moving average also inched up a bit, but unless something strange happens tomorrow, we’re about to drop that April 17 case record day which will bring the average right back down into the thirteen hundreds:

Date         5-day M Average

4/15                 1,342

4/16                 1,319

4/17                 1,353

4/18                 1,435

4/19                 1,430

4/20                 1,391

4/21                 1,466

Once again, we’re spending more time in this peak area than we expected, but as previously discussed, it could be so much worse at this point.

Considering what the numbers are clearly saying, I couldn’t quite figure out why the Governor and his “experts” suddenly think we’re looking at a mid-May COVID-19 peak until I read this morning’s Chicago Tribune.

Clearly not a very bright man, Pritzer said this about the postponed peak, “You have to actually get to the peak and start down the other side before you know you hit a peak.” That non-statement statement sounds like something right out ‘Dr. Strangelove.’

Not one to avoid an opportunity to obfuscate, Prizker added that, per federal government guidelines, he wants daily cases to decline for 14 straight days before reopening the state. But considering the still inexplicable lack of Illinois testing, the lack of any testing standard, and the four different strains of the disease, that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

There’s no excuse for Illinois’ continued erratic testing methodology, either. J. B. certainly didn’t wait on Washington to get medical supplies from China!

And what happens when more widespread testing finally uncovers a wholly asymptomatic host of COVID-19 carriers? Worse yet, when the disease finally hits that curve downside, unshackling the teeming masses would likely have the same effect as if we did it right now. The disease will be no less contagious in June.

The math tells us the peak came to pass on April 17 and 18 and we’ll be well past it by mid May. Given that and all the current coronavirus evidence, I’ll say it again! We need to shift our paradigm to protect our most vulnerable citizens and get back to work.

We cannot let the cure become worse than the disease. We’ll talk about that a lot more tomorrow.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for my report on the Elgin Mental Health Center. Apparently, the State doesn’t believe their own COVID-19 rules apply to them!