(The Center Square) – Illinois was the sixth worst state in the nation in positive outcomes from policies implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The study reviews all 50 states and the District of Columbia on three variables: health outcomes, economic performance throughout the pandemic, and impact on education from during the past two years of COVID-19 policies.
University of Chicago economics professor Casey Mulligan said the takeaway for policy makers is clear: closing schools was not helpful.
“It hurt the children and it didn’t help health,” Mulligan told The Center Square. “Might even hurt the health a little bit, but it definitely didn't improve health, didn’t reduce COVID or anything like that. That’d be No. 1, No. 2 is cutting down on economic activity didn’t improve health that much.”
Illinois is an outlier “among their geographic neighbors in the direction of low combined scores,” the report shows.
Among the 51 jurisdictions reviewed across the nation, Illinois ranked near the bottom at No. 46 overall.
“We kind of gave each state a grade and Illinois got an F,” Mulligan said.
For economic indicators, Illinois ranked No. 47. That included unemployment, gross domestic product and economy average. For in-person education, Illinois ranked No. 43. For health outcomes, like COVID deaths per 100,000, all-cause excess deaths and mortality average, Illinois ranked No. 20.
The study found that locked-down economies did not have better health outcomes.
“Excluding the geographically unusual cases of Hawaii and Alaska to focus on the continental U.S., there is no apparent relationship between reduced economic activity during the pandemic and our composite mortality measure,” the report says.
While the study found school closures did have a moderate correlation with the research’s mortality measure, the literature did not show there was causality. But, there was correlation between states with locked-down economies and closed schools.
“Unsurprisingly, there was a strong relationship between the states that had poor economic performance and closed schools – the lockdown states,” the report says.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order in March 2020 lasted ten weeks. At that time, Illinois' unemployment rate skyrocketed and many businesses failed to reopen. For months after, Pritzker had varying degrees of mandates like capacity limits. His indoor mask mandate lasted for over a year before he lifted the mandate. Weeks after that, in August 2021, he reimplemented the mask mandate that was lifted in early March 2022.
Separately, the Illinois Department of Public Health Tuesday said it’s adopting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to only focus on COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases per 100,000.
IDPH Acting Director Amaal Tokars said that means the data published on the department website is changing.
“This includes more data on vaccination rates and more detailed data on people who are hospitalized including their vaccination status,” Tokars said during a media briefing on the changes.
Tokars said while cases are increasing, Illinois is still considered in the low transmission category.
“We have not discussed mitigation at this time, so if we do discuss it, that’s a determination yet to be made,” Tokars said.
Pritzker has recently said that if the COVID metrics warrant more mitigation, he will take the necessary action, though didn’t elaborate.