The number of confirmed cases of Evanston residents having COVID-19 grew to 136 as of 3 p.m. today, April 7, according to information provided by the City of Evanston. This is an increase of 8 cases since yesterday, April 7. The trend is shown in the accompanying chart.    

For Chicago, the COVID-19 cases grew from 5,506 cases yesterday to 6,092 today; the cases in Cook County grew from 9,501 yesterday to 10,520 today; and the cases in Illinois grew from  13,549 to !5,078.  A total of 75,066 people in Illinois have been tested for COVID-19. The trend is shown in the second chart in the chart box.

Governor J.B. Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said this afternoon that they saw some glimmer of hope in these numbers and that the State needed to increase the amount of testing to help focus their efforts.

Dr. Ezike said there was an increase of 1,529 COVIC-19 cases and 82 lives lost in the last 24 hours. “These are the highest numbers to date, and although these numbers are still increasing, I will tell you that the rate at which they are increasing is less and that is a good sign,” she said. “We’re not seeing the exponential growth that we were seeing before.

“With guarded optimism, we’re hoping that we’re getting closer to the peak or the plateau. It’s not clear yet how long that would be. It’s really hard to make specific days – like we’re x number of days from the peak – but we’re moving in that direction.”

While saying there was “some glimmer of hope,” she said “physical distancing has to, must continue” in order to reduce the spread of the virus. 

“Congregations, church meetings, are ill-advised now. Find a way to attend the services electronically,” Dr. Ezike said. “We know the strategies we’re employing are working. Let’s not stop now.”

Gov. Pritzker said the revised projections released yesterday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflecting that the number of hospitalizations and deaths might be lower than previously forecast, gave him “some optimism.” He added, though, “There is an equal number of models out there that show something different. We look a multiple models for the State.”

 He too said, “There are reasons to see glimmers of hope here in the numbers.” He pointed to one key data-point used in making the projections, which is the number of people that a single infected person would infect. Initially the assumption was 3.5 people, and “it’s much lower now,” he said. He attributed the decline in the infection rate to the stay-at-home order, social distancing and other restrictions.

Testing for COVID-19

Gov. Pritzker said that ten days ago he announced a plan to increase the number of tests for COVID-19 to 10,000 tests per day. He said that was “the number of tests scientists and experts say that we need to understand more fully the virus’s presence in our communities across Illinois.”

He added, “We have only just recently surpassed 6,000 test [per day]. We will not reach 10,000 this week. … Every day we’re not getting 10,000 tests or more is another day we’re not getting answers to help us get past the current crisis.”

Gov. Pritzker said there are 96 locations around the State that are collecting specimens, and that the turn-around time between taking a swab to issuing a report is two days. He summarized some of the challenges the State is facing with one major supplier, with the supply chain, and some obstacles imposed by the federal government. He said the scientists, technicians, and many others in the State, are working around the clock to increase the number of tests.

Dr. Ezike said the testing is important. “We need to know where there are large numbers of cases – hot spots, if you will – so that we can try to do more targeted efforts to stop the spread in the high risk areas.”

Testing to Detect antibodies

Dr. Ezike said the State is starting to administer tests that could detect antibodies in people who had been infected. She said, “These tests will play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 by helping with identifying people who have actually overcome an infection and developed the immune response.”

The assumption, Dr. Ezike said, is this group of people will no longer be susceptible to infection and can return to work. The test may also determine who may donate plasma that could serve as a possible treatment for those who are seriously ill from COVID-19.

She added, though, that there is still a risk that people who had recovered from COVID could still be carrier if they touched a surface that contained the virus.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...