On Oct. 23, Superintendent Devon Horton said District 65’s plan was to welcome the first group of students back for in-person learning next week, but he said, “We simply cannot ignore the fact that we are experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19. Given the rising positivity rate in Region 10 [Suburban Cook County], and in the surrounding regions where many of our staff live, I cannot in good conscience resume in-person learning at this time.”

He said Oct. 23 will be the last day for Remote Learning + Camps, but added they might open again at a later date if conditions permit.  In addition, he said, “Family Center programming will be suspended. We will look to resume as soon as conditions allow,” and the “Specialized programs that were scheduled to begin next week at King Arts (RISE), JEH, Lincoln (STEP), Park, and Rice will be delayed until at least November 16.”

Dr. Horton added, “No later than October 30, we will make a determination about in-person learning scheduled to begin on November 16. However, we will continue to closely monitor health conditions over that following week. If health conditions improve or decline during that time, this may impact our decision. We want to allow as much time as possible for conditions to improve and will be ready to go either way.”

Meanwhile, all students will continue with remote leaning.

IDPH’s  Metrics

School District 65 is considering to open its schools based, in part, on the Metrics for School Determination of Community Spread adopted by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The District is using the metrics applicable to Suburban Cook County and they included the number of new cases per 100,000 people, the test positivity rate, and the number of new cases in a 7-day period compared to the number of new cases in the prior 7-day period.

IDPH’s Data Are Outdated

The metrics posted by IDPH yesterday, Oct. 23, are for the week Oct. 11 through Oct. 17. The data is already a week old, and does not include dramatic increases in the spread of COVID-19 that occurred since Oct. 17

In addition, IDPH’s latest post characterizes the growth in the number of weekly cases between the week ending Oct. 11 and the week ending Oct. 18 as “minimal.”

The growth of weekly cases between those two points in time, however, increased from 3,193 (Oct. 11) to 4,648 (Oct. 18). The growth was 1,455 cases or 46%. Under IDPH’s guidelines, an increase of 20% or more is “substantial,” not minimal.

The Most Current Data

The most recent data available today, Oct. 24 shows that Suburban Cook County is in a “moderate” risk category in one key metric and a “substantial” risk category for two metrics. As reflected in the accompanying charts, the trends in the last few weeks are all concerning.

First, New Cases per 100,000 Population. IDPH’s target is that there be fewer than 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in Suburban Cook County in a 7-day period. If the case rate is above 100 cases per 100,000, the risk is deemed “substantial.”

On Oct. 24 there were 228 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in Suburban Cook County in a 7-day period. This is double the number that is deemed to constitute a “substantial” risk.

Second, a Test Positivity Rate.  IDPH’s target is that a test positivity rate by 5% or less. If a rate is between 5% and 8%, the risk is “moderate.” If it is more than 8%, the risk is “substantial.”

The 7-day test positivity rate of Suburban Cook County as of Oct. 21 (the most recent date for which data is available) was 7.5 %.

Third, New COVID-19 Cases in a Week. Under this criterion, the total number of new cases in the most recent 7-day period in Suburban Cook County should be decreasing or stable compared to the total number of cases in the prior 7-day period.

The data shows that there were 5,641 new COVID-19 cases in Suburban Cook County in the 7-day period Oct. 18 – Oct. 24.

There were 4,331 new cases in Suburban Cook County in the prior 7-day period Oct. 11 – Oct. 17.

Between the two 7-day periods the number of cases increased by 1,310 cases, or by 30%. IDPH says more than 20% constitutes a “substantial” risk.

Statewide and Evanston New Cases on Oct. 24

Today, the State reported a total of 6,161 new COVID-19 case. That number blew through the record for cases in a single day for the entire pandemic.

Evanston had 28 new cases.

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...