Tuesday, July 14, 2020

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wirepoints |  Let’s start with a central claim Governor JB Pritzker made Wednesday in his testimony about COVID-19 policy before the United States House Committee on Homeland Security: “We instituted [his mandate to wear masks] in Illinois on May 1st, one of the first in the nation, and it aligns with our most significant downward shifts in our infection rate,” he said.

That’s simply untrue and his own administration’s data show why. Infections turned down well before his mask order went into effect on May 1. We laid it out in detail in early June.

The evidence of the day-to-day course of the virus closest to being timely is hospitalizations for it, as Pritzker himself has said. Deaths provide another index. However, hospitalizations and deaths lag the actual course of the virus, and that lag time is provided directly by the Center for Disease Control. 

Adjusting for those lags shows that the virus peaked in Illinois around April 15 or April 18 – before the mask order even went into effect.

Progress from the mask order would not have shown up until mid-May, which is when Pritzker’s “science and data” projected the virus would peak. Those projections are now proved to have been wrong even before they were announced. Our full analysis, using the state’s own numbers and the CDC adjustments, includes the details.

And what about Pritzker’s suggestion for going forward, which made national headlines — a federal mask mandate for the whole nation?

In his testimony Pritzker said, “If there’s one job government has, it’s to respond to a life-threatening emergency. But when the same emergency is crashing down on every state at once, that’s a national emergency, and it requires a national response.”

But remember what he said in April when President Trump and Vice President Pence were roundly rebuked – properly – for claiming that the federal government could override state emergency orders and reopening plans? Pritzker was among the critics. “Well, I think [Trump] is going to issue some advice about it, but it is true that it’s up to the governors to make decisions about the executive orders we put in place,” Pritzker said.

And Pritzker says Trump alone should issue the national mask order, with no legislation. Executive authority for that is highly questionable. On executive power, at least he is consistent. It’s also his position that he can micromanage much of the state through an emergency order he claims can be renewed for as long as he alone chooses.

Watch the video of the rest of his testimony and you will see that the gist of it is that, when the federal government failed, it was his administration that stepped up with the right response, which is how much of the press summarized his testimony. When asked later to elaborate on what lessons Illinois officials gained from handling the pandemic, Pritzker offered no specifics, saying only, “There’s an awful lot of learning that’s taken place from March until now, so yes I think we’ve created a path for someone in the future to follow.”

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