Major issues with COVID-19 data has state senators calling on Pritzker to reopen Metro East

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Two Metro East state senators want Gov. J.B. Pritzker to immediately remove the increased restrictions on Region 4. 

State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) and Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) say significant issues with Illinois’ COVID-19 reporting and tracking methods are likely affecting the accuracy of the published positivity rate for Region 4. 

Schimpf and Plummer say they noted several issues with the state’s data reporting and collection methodology, which they say could be creating an inaccurate and inflated rate for the region.

The senators say IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike confirmed that until recently, Illinois was not including data from some of the largest hospitals and heal care facilities in the region. 

One of those hospitals is BJC HealthCare which does serve Metro East COVID patients. The senators say only including positive test results from those providers would dramatically increase the reported positivity rate for the region.

During a Monday briefing, Dr. Ezike was asked about Illinoisians receiving COVID tests at St. Louis hospitals.

“We want to have every test counted on everyone in Illinois so our numbers can be as accurate as possible. We obviously only can calculate and do math off the lab tests that we receive. We were made aware of the fact that Barnes Jewish particularly had a lot of tests from Illinoians, from the Metro East area,” said Dr. Ezike.

She says her department has worked with BJC hospital leadership and their laboratory leadership to make sure they are sending those lab results electronically so they can be counted towards the total and give us the most accurate number.

“I find it unconscionable that the State of Illinois is shutting down businesses and destroying livelihoods based on a metric that is clearly neither meaningful nor accurate,” said State Sen. Schimpf. “Governor Pritzker needs to immediately lift the mitigation measures he imposed on our region several weeks ago.”

The senators also pointed to issues with data collection statewide such as individuals being counted multiple times. They also say individuals in state facilities like prisons are being counted but they don’t mingle with the general population. 

The senators also say that according to health officials, some private labs may be submitting only positive results because those are the only results that they are required to release.

 “It is shockingly callous for Governor Pritzker and his allies to knowingly use faulty data to implement arbitrary rules that have destroyed economic opportunity for many Illinoisans.  Our priority should be to protect the most vulnerable, but this administration is exacerbating the crisis by creating economic hardship and additional health issues for many desperate families,” said State Sen. Plummer.

During the same briefing yesterday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker commented on the positivity rates dropping in the Metro East.

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