The number of confirmed cases of Evanston residents having COVID-19 grew to 144 as of 3 p.m. today, April 9, according to information provided by the City of Evanston. This is an increase of 8 cases since yesterday, April 8. The trend is shown in the accompanying chart.    

For Chicago, the COVID-19 cases grew from 6,092 cases yesterday to 6,645 today; the cases in Cook County grew from 10,520 yesterday to 11,415 today; and the cases in Illinois grew from 15,078 to 16,422.  A total of 80,857 people in Illinois have been tested for COVID-19. The trend is shown in the second chart in the chart box.

The third chart in the chart box shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Illinois each day starting on April 1. The chart reflects a buildup in the total number of cases between April 1 and April 4, and then a drop on April 5, and then a continuing build up between April 5 and today.

The increase yesterday was the highest increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the State. The increase today was the third-highest.

The cases between April 1 and 4 increased on average 14.4% each day over the total on the previous day. The average percentage increase between April 5 and 9 is 9.6%.

The Rate of the Increase

In today’s briefing Governor J.B. Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, commented on these numbers. Gov. Pritzker also laid out his thinking on what would need to be in place to lift the current state-at-home order and other restrictions, and suggested it may be a lengthy process.

Gov. Pritzker said the rate of the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases is looking less and less exponential. “That indicates to us that we are in fact bending the curve,” he said. “We need to keep watching the data on a daily basis.

“Keep in mind that case numbers and the death toll are still growing, and thus our fight must continue.” He noted, though, “those numbers are growing more slowly and that’s a very good thing.

“Everybody needs to know, if we are improving – and it’s still up in the air – but if we are improving here in the State, it is because people are staying at home. If you don’t stay at home – if you go out, you have some propensity to infect other people. We need you to stay at home. We need this curve to bend, and then we can begin to talk about how we can open things up a little bit more.”

“We are all making sacrifices,” said Dr. Ezike. “We are headed in the right direction because of the tremendous efforts by all of you.”

She acknowledged, “We do know that there are many more positive cases than we have actually tested and confirmed. We’re working as hard as we can to get those testing numbers up and increasing that capacity, but nonetheless, for every case that you find, there are many others.”

What it Looks Like Going Forward

When asked if the stay-at-home order would be lifted before April 30, Gov. Pritzker said, “We talk a lot about peaking, and we talk a lot about bending the curve. The curve is still an upward trajectory. And so, just because we’re bending the curve doesn’t mean it’s bending down yet. So people need to understand that it’s unlikely that we will be able to lift this stay-at-home order before April 30.

“And indeed as we approach April 30, we will be thinking about what are  the restrictions and rules we need to set going forward after April 30, because it isn’t going to be – unlike some have said at the federal level – it isn’t going to be all of a sudden, you’re going to drop the stay-at-home and every other restriction. And that’s because there is a propensity that if you do that, we’re going to see a big spike upward and once again hospitalization beds filled, and ICU [intensive care unit] beds filled and more deaths.”

When asked, “What should we expect for this summer, and could we go through this again this fall or winter?”

Gov. Pritzker said, “Yes. In short, yes.”

He then laid out the foundation that needed to be laid before he thought the State could move on.

“The fact of the matter is we are not going to be truly able to begin to move on until we have testing, much greater testing, contact tracing and treatment. Test, trace, and treat. We have to have those available. That’s even before there’s a vaccine, but you have to have all of those. You have to have testing widely available. You have to be able to easily contact-trace anybody who tests positive – all the people they talked to or been in contact with the last 14, or perhaps 17, days. And then, of course, there needs to be some treatment to bring down the level of hospitalizations, the level of ICU beds that are necessary and, of course, the number of deaths.”

In the last few days, Gov. Pritzker has laid out the plan to increase the State’s ability to test. He emphasized that the State is focusing on developing the capacity to do the testing itself, rather than relying on the federal government to do it. He said the State has the ability to test and report on a swab in two days, while the federal government sends swabs to private facilities that take up to seven or 10 days.

Gov. Pritzker said he intended to put in a drive-through testing site in the south suburbs, a heavily African American community, and at other sites. “We want to spread this into communities where we know we have significant issues,” he said.

He added, “The tracing piece is a big one. What we’ve been doing up till now is tracing individuals after they’ve been identified, but as we increase the testing across the State … there’s even more need for contact testing.”

When asked what advice he would give to organizers of big summer events, Gov. Pritzker said, “I think everybody needs to think seriously about cancelling large summer events. From my perspective today, I just do not see how we’re going to have large gatherings of people again – until we have a vaccine, which is months and months away. I would not risk having large groups of people getting together anywhere. And I think that’s hard for people to hear, but that’s just a fact.

“Even with tracing and testing and treating, as is necessary for us to begin to make changes, it’s not enough for me to say it’s ok to have a big festival with a whole bunch of people gathered together.”

IHME Estimates

On April 8, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington updated its study, “Forecasting COVID-19 impact on hospital bed-days, ICU-days, ventilator days and deaths by US state in the next 4 months.” The study was discussed in a March 31 article posted on the RoundTable’s site, as well as in subsequent articles posted on the site. The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the State of Washington, estimates hospital utilization rates and deaths due to COVID-19 for each day in the next four months for each state in the nation.

The updated version provides much more optimistic projections. It forecasts that Illinois will reach peak hospital bed utilization rates on April 11, and the State’s hospitals will have enough hospital beds and intensive care unit beds to meet the best estimate of need. The study also forecasts that deaths in the State due to COVID-19 will peak on April 12, and then go down to zero on May 4 and remain at zero through Aug. 4. IHME now estimates that the total number of deaths in Illinois will be 1,588, significantly less than projected a week ago.

Yesterday, Gov. Pritzker said the State has other projections that differ.

One issue with the projections is that the entered actual deaths for April 7 at 308, rather than 380 reported by IDPH. For April 8, it projected total deaths at 383;  IDPH reported the that actual number was 462.

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...