Backlog in COVID-19 test reporting leads to Illinois’ highest daily caseload ever — 5,368
Though positivity rate goes down, backlog reveals stretch rivaling numbers in May
Public health officials on Friday blamed a slowdown in Illinois’ coronavirus test reporting system for the state’s largest-ever batch of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day: 5,368.
The unprecedented caseload was confirmed among a whopping 149,273 tests reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the result of a backlog that officials say they discovered earlier this week.
Labs submit their test results electronically to the state every day, but the state’s data processing system began working “slower than normal” on Tuesday, according to Derek Lindblom, head of the state’s testing team.
By the time the delay was cleared Thursday afternoon, a testing backlog of up to two days had piled up, Lindblom said.
“Even a short delay of a day or a day and a half in processing will lead to a significant increase in test reporting,” Lindblom said.
Friday’s daily case count soared past the previous high of 4,014 new cases reported at Illinois’ initial height of the pandemic May 12. And the test count dwarfed the state’s previous high of 56,766 tests reported Aug. 22.
Still, the unloaded backlog actually lowered the state’s average testing positivity rate over the last week to 4.1%, down three notches from Illinois’ rolling rate as of Thursday.
Lindblom said the backlog wouldn’t affect the positivity rates for individual counties or regions. Those are the numbers experts use to gauge how quickly the virus is spreading.
“The tests are still the exact same tests. There was just a delay in the processing of the tests,” Lindblom said. “The trailing averages are all the same, which is what our decision-makers use.”
But the testing pileup does explain in part why the state reported only 1,360 cases Thursday, Illinois’ lowest daily number in more than three weeks.
And while inflated, the new cases reported on Friday still put the state in a dangerous position. If the backlog only began on Tuesday, as officials say, that means the state averaged 2,587 new cases over the past four days. That’s not far off from a peak four-day stretch in May when Illinois was reporting 2,841 cases per day.
Jordan Abudayyeh, press secretary for
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, countered that the statewide positivity rate “has remained fairly stable this week” and said the apparent uptick in cases “is generally proportionate to the growth in tests.”
“But the Governor is watching the data closely leading up to the holiday weekend,” Abudayyeh said in an email.
Tech upgrades made to the processing system give the state “plenty of running room in the future” as Illinois remains among the top states nationwide in overall testing capacity, especially with a new rapid saliva test in use at the University of Illinois, Lindblom said.
The state health department on Friday also announced the virus has killed 29 more people in Illinois, while the same number of Illinois counties are at a coronavirus “warning level” — about a third of the state map.
Suburban Cook County worked its way off the warning list that it had landed on a week earlier, but north suburban Lake County was added as the result of two “risk indicators:” a rate of 95 cases per 100,000 residents — over the target rate of 50 cases — and a sizable increase in COVID-19 deaths over the previous week.
Lake County Health Department executive director Mark Pfister called it “a wakeup call heading into Labor Day weekend.
“We need everyone to wear a mask, wash their hands often and watch their distance. Reconsider your plans if they include risky activities and gatherings,” Pfister said in a statement.
Far southwest suburban Will County remained on the list a week after Pritzker banned indoor dining in the region due to soaring positivity rates. Along with Kankakee County, its regional positivity is at 8.7%
The other “warning level” counties span Illinois but are largely clustered downstate.
Outbreaks there have been tied to college parties, weddings and bars, while “general transmission of the virus in the community is also increasing,” according to the state health department.
Chicago’s testing positivity rate has held steady at 5.6%, while suburban Cook is at 6.9%.
Over the last five months, 4.3 million people have been tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, at least 245,371 have tested positive and 8,143 of those have died.
WASHINGTON — U.S. unemployment dropped sharply in August from 10.2% to a still-high 8.4%, with about half the 22 million jobs lost to the coronavirus outbreak recovered so far, the government said Friday in one of the last major economic reports before Election Day.
Employers added 1.4 million jobs last month, down from 1.7 million in July and the fewest since hiring resumed in May. And an increasingly large share of Americans reported that their jobs are gone for good, according to the Labor Department report.
Altogether, that was seen by economists as evidence that further improvement is going to be sluggish and uneven.
Still, President Donald Trump exulted over the latest unemployment figure, saying, “That is many, many months ahead of schedule.”
Democratic nominee Joe Biden said the pandemic is still weighing on the economy.
“Donald Trump may be the only president in modern history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he took office,” Biden said. The U.S. has 4.7 million fewer jobs now than when Trump was inaugurated, but if the monthly gains continue at the same pace as in August, those jobs would be recovered by January.
Pentagon reaffirms Microsoft as winner of disputed JEDI deal
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Friday reaffirmed Microsoft as winner of a cloud computing contract potentially worth $10 billion, although the start of work is delayed by a legal battle over rival Amazon’s claim that the bidding process was flawed.
“The department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the government,” the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon had requested time to review how it evaluated certain technical aspects of the bids after the judge who is presiding over Amazon’s protest issued a preliminary injunction on Feb. 13.
Here are two interesting political straws in the wind: According to a recent poll in the Military Times, active-duty service members favor Joe Biden over Boss Trump in the upcoming election, 41-37. Given that a poll on the same date in 2016 showed Trump favored by 20 points over Hillary Clinton, this looks like a significant shift.
Almost half of uniformed soldiers (49.9%) have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, compared to 38% favorable, which is marginally worse than his reputation among civilians.
This, too: Media critic Eric
Boehlert’s Press Run website has compiled the bad news about Trump’s TV ratings. Not only did the Democratic National Convention draw many more viewers nightly than the Republican event a week later, but “Trump’s convention acceptance speech was the lowestrated one in prime-time history, drawing 24 million viewers. (John McCain’s acceptance speech drew 39 million viewers in 2008.) Trump drew fewer viewers than Joe Biden did for his acceptance speech the week before.”
Several million fewer. Indeed, if the Trump administration were a TV show, it might be on its way to cancellation. “Trump’s tepid Nielsen numbers are bad news for the president,” Boehlert notes, “since he’s obsessed with television ratings.”
Indeed, he often boasts about his lofty ratings, even when he has to make them up. Press Run cites an instance in November 2018 when Trump claimed that 9.2 million viewers tuned in to watch him on “Fox News Sunday.” The actual viewership was 1.7 million.
Could be he’s simply overexposed. Appearing every night of the GOP convention may have been a mistake. Indeed, you can hardly turn on the TV without seeing Trump’s scowling mug. Americans, Boehlert notes, aren’t crazy about reruns. It’s nevertheless significant that Nielsen ratings for the Republican show were down 25% from the 2016 convention.
Almost needless to say, Trump claims the numbers are rigged.
It’s easy to predict that he’ll call the Military Times poll crooked too, if he doesn’t simply insult any reporter who asks about it and then flee the podium. Between insulting John McCain’s Vietnam War heroism and begging off a World
War I memorial service in France because he might get his hair wet — while French, German, British and Canadian leaders braved the rain — Trump has done little to inspire respect among soldiers.
Most telling is the poll’s finding that “Only about 17% of those surveyed felt the White House has properly handled reports that Russian officials offered bounties for Afghan fighters to target and kill American troops, an issue Trump has dismissed as unreliable intelligence.”
Given that 81% in the U.S. military view Russia as a significant national security threat, Trump’s cowering before Vladimir Putin and belittling of NATO have also hurt.
Maybe he can throw himself a big parade, like Kim Jong Un.
Meanwhile, the president of chaos, disease and disorder appears to believe that only stoking racial strife can help him eke out an Electoral College win. (I’d say there’s no chance of Trump winning a majority; he’ll be fortunate to lose the popular vote by fewer than 5 million votes.)
Back when that platoon of self-styled militiamen made their way into the Michigan statehouse, Trump tweeted “LIBERATE
MICHIGAN.” Would he encourage White House visitors carrying AR-15 assault rifles? Me, I wondered what was going to happen if one of those dopes pulled the trigger.
Well, we learned the other night in Kenosha, didn’t we?
And then the next night in Portland. Is there anybody in the USA who thinks the violence won’t escalate?
See, you don’t get order without law. And a chief executive who urges supporters to bring guns into politics, or the police to rough up suspects, as Trump has done repeatedly, fosters lawlessness and chaos.
But somehow it’s supposed to be Joe Biden’s fault. Apparently because Democrats generally oppose cops shooting Black men in the back. So here’s what Biden said in Pittsburgh recently: “I want to make it absolutely clear ... Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawless. It’s plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change, and only bring destruction.”
Biden’s since doubled down: “[Trump] wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others,” he wrote. “He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it.”
Look, call your friendly neighborhood criminal defense lawyer. You can’t plead self-defense if you’re breaking the law, such as a minor parading around with a gun he’s not legally permitted to carry while defying a curfew. Trump can’t pardon the Rittenhouse kid, either: Murder’s a state charge, not a federal one.
Meanwhile, anybody who doesn’t understand that violence and thuggery exist at both political extremes can’t have been paying attention since ...
Well, since when? Chicago in 1968? Berlin in 1933?
Coronavirus tests are administered at a drive-thru site at 2231 N. Central Ave. in May.