The number of confirmed cases of Evanston residents infected with COVID-19 grew dramatically over the weekend, but leveled off today. There were 8 new cases on Saturday and 18 new cases on Sunday, but only 1 reported today. The total confirmed cases for Evanstonians is 175 as of 3 p.m. today, April 13, according to information provided by the City of Evanston. The trend is shown in the accompanying chart. 

A total of 5 Evanstonians have died of COVID-19.    

For Chicago, the COVID-19 cases grew from 7,230 on Friday to 9,084 today; the cases in Cook County grew from 12,472 on Friday to 15,474 today; and the cases in Illinois grew from 17,887 on Friday to 22,025 today.  A total of 105,768 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, then a drop on April 5, followed by a steady buildup through April 8, and fluctuations after that. 

The number of cases between April 4 and 8 increased on an average of 9.6% each day over the total on the previous day. The average percentage increase between April 9 and 13 is 7.8%.

Impact by Race/Ethnicity

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted black people throughout the nation, and the impact in Chicago and Illinois is disproportionate as well. In Chicago, black people are 3.2 times as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as white people and 2.6 times more likely to be infected than Latinx people.

Statewide, more black people have been infected with and died from COVID-19 than white people; even though black people constitute only about 15% of the population and white people constitute about 60% of the population.

The RoundTable has asked Evanston’s Health Department for a break down of the data by race/ethnicity for Evanston, but it has not been provided the data.

Impact by Age

Deaths due to COVID-19 are primarily impacting older people. As of April 12, 93% of the deaths in Illinois are of people 50 years old and older. The breakdown is as follow: 37% of the deaths were people who were 80 years and older; 28% were in their 70s, 19% in their 60s, and 9% in their 50s.

The death rate of older people is also much higher than younger people in Illinois. The percentage of people who have confirmed COVID-19 cases by age group is as follows: over 80 – 17.8%; in their 70s -10.2%; in their 60s – 4.2%; in their 50s – 1.7%; in their 40s – 0.9%; in their 30s – 0.4%; younger than 30 – 0.1%.

Unemployment Claims

At the briefing on April 13, Governor J.B. Pritzker discussed the huge number of unemployment claims filed by Illinois residents and the State’s efforts to build capacity to handle them.

During a five-week period between the beginning of March and now, Gov. Pritzker said, the Illinois Department of Employment Security received more than 513,000 initial unemployment claims, which was largest number of claims ever filed in a five-week period. This was more than all of the claims filed last year, and it was four times more that the total of unemployment claims filed in the first five weeks of the 2008 Great Recession, said Gov. Pritzker.

He said the system to handle unemployment claims was built ten years ago and it was designed with the premise that unemployment claims would never exceed the levels experienced in the Great Recession. “But today we are seeing four times that number,” the Governor said.

Since March 1, IDES has fielded more than 6.5 million online sessions and processed thousands of calls each day. He said more than 270,000 claims have been approved, providing benefits totaling more than $270 million.

The State has quickly updated its phone system, expanded call center hours, established an outside call center, overhauled its online web platform, and worked with many consultants, including Accenture and IBM, to upgrade the process.

“This is a work in process,” said Gov. Pritzker, “much better than it was.”

The Governor said he has also been working to ensure that independent contractors and sole proprietors can receive unemployment compensation, despite the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to restrict their benefits. They can begin the application process now, but federal benefits will not be available until May.

Workers Compensation Benefits

Under an emergency rule implemented this morning, people who are providing essential services, such as nurses, firefighters, grocery store clerks, and truck drivers, may have a better chance of recovering workers compensation benefits if they become infected with COVID-19 while they are employed.

These essential workers will be presumed to have incurred the COVID-9 infection while on the job, improving their chances of obtaining workers compensation payments. An employer may present evidence to rebut the presumption.

Gov. Pritzker said he urged the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission to adopt this emergency rule. He said it will protect people who are on the “front line” and the “most exposed” and provide critical services for the community during this crisis.

Alice Johnson, Director of Illinois Nursing Association, said nurses risk their health and safety every day when they go to work, and some are becoming infected with COVID-19. “Sadly, we have seen some employers argue with nurses about where they have become infected, completely ignoring the obvious risk created by the work they do every day. Nurses should not be left to deal with the long-term and costly consequence of becoming infected with COVID-19 on their own.

“There will be a fair and reasonable presumption that nurses who become infected with COVID-19 during the crisis became infected on the job,” she said.

Getting Back to Normal?

Reporters pressed the Governor, asking when the order closing the schools and the stay-at-home order would be lifted.

Gov. Pritzker said, “We want to lift these orders as soon as we can. We want to bring things back to normal as soon as we can. But one thing we need to pay attention to is what direction are these curves going and what advice are we getting from the scientists and doctors.”

Responding to a question whether schools would be reopened or closed for the rest of the year, Gov. Pritzker said, “I promise I will tell you as soon as I know the answer to that question.

“I think  it’s likely there will be an adjustment to the orders that we put in  place, but it’s also true that, as I said yesterday and the past couple of days, it’s not like we’re anywhere near herd immunity. And there isn’t a treatment.

He again listed three things that he felt needed to be in place before there were any significant moves.

“In order for you to get to a point where you want to move things significantly back to normal, you need widespread testing. We don’t have anything near widespread testing anywhere in the country. There’s no widespread testing. But we’re doing more and more in Illinois every day.

“The second thing is you need a contact tracing system that truly allows when you detect someone as COVID-19 positive, you can get a hold of the people who were in contact with that person within the last 14 days.

“The last thing you need is a treatment to lessen the severity of the infection that people experience so that fewer of these people go to the hospital, fewer go to an ICU bed, fewer to a ventilator, and, of course, getting the death rate down.”

He characterized testing, tracing and treatment as “gating issues for any significant moves.”

He said some of the issues he is discussing with his team are whether masks will be required and what rules will be applied to different industries. For example, will the number of people in a retail store be limited by the square footage of the store?

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...