It's time to move forward, Illinois
According to the Illinois Department of Health, COVID hospitalizations on March 3, 2021, Illinois had 1,200 statewide COVID hospitalizations out of a staffed hospital bed capacity of 31,313 and 1,779 new COVID cases. Overall inpatient hospital beds are 69.8% occupied. For comparative purposes, the average hospital's inpatient bed occupancy rate in August 2017 (pre-COVID) was 65.4% (Becker's Hospital Review). When Governor Pritzker issued his executive order April 30, 2020, there were 4,906 COVID hospitalizations in Illinois and 2,563 new cases. The worst COVID new case day for Illinois occurred November 15, 2020, when there were 10,636 new cases. The worst COVID hospitalization day was November 22, 2020, when there were 6,171 hospitalizations and there were 9,373 open hospital beds. On our worst day, our hospitals were not overwhelmed.
Additionally, on April 30, 2020, there were 141 COVID deaths, and on March 4, 2020, there were 42 COVID deaths. In 2019, there were 108,937 deaths in Illinois (all causes), and nationally, there were 2,845,793 deaths. Preliminary data indicate that in 2020, overall deaths (all causes) increased by 260,000 and will likely exceed 3.1 million deaths for 2020 (waiting for the final data from the CDC).
We know the unfortunate profile of the individual who is the most likely to die due to COVID — those over age 65 and those with comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Those over the age of 65 represent 16.5% of the U.S. population and 81% of the COVID deaths (CDC).
Let's not ignore the fact that 2,993,543 Illinoisans have been vaccinated (WGN).
Illinois has a December 2020 unemployment rate of 8%. For comparative purposes, Wisconsin has an unemployment rate of 4% and Indiana an unemployment rate of 4.6%.
Why all the data? Information makes the sale. It is time for Illinois to open up, leaving the decision to the individual/entity. The public knows who the vulnerable population is. Hospital capacity (the root of the lockdown) has not been overwhelmed. Daily death counts have dropped dramatically. We have a very impressive vaccination rate. We know what we need to do to protect our health. Too many children received a woefully inadequate education this school year. Too many high school and college students are struggling to find employment this summer. Too many people have had their emotional health compromised.
Chicago is a convention destination with 25–30,000 union hospitality jobs. We are losing convention opportunities to other destinations. In Evanston, the vaunted Orrington Hotel has declared bankruptcy due to COVID. Our higher unemployment rate compared to our neighboring states is driven by our inability to open up our entertainment/hospitality/convention industries and society as a whole.
What about Taste of Chicago? Bluesfest? Jazz Festival? Ravinia? Cubs? White Sox? They make Chicago special in the summer.
Watch the Texas reopening. If the Texan health care system is not overwhelmed by the end of March, we should follow its lead and remove all Illinois government restrictions on private enterprise. If Texas is successful, we have the information and the vaccinations to responsibly reopen in early April. There isn't a better place in the world than Chicago in the summer. Good luck to Texas so that we can have a wonderful, thriving Chicago summer. We are the city of broad shoulders.