There have been 110 new COVID-19 cases in Evanston in the last seven days. In the last three days alone, there have been 67 new cases. There are now 273 active cases.

Ike C. Ogbo, the Director of Evanston’s Department of Health and Human Services, told the RoundTable, “The rise in our cases is primarily due to the community spread of the virus. We continue to see a higher rate of infections in the age group 20-29 and that is why it is imperative for everyone to continue to follow public health directives to limit the spread.

 “Although we have a number of cases from Northwestern,” he said, “they are not disproportionately driving the community increase in cases.” 

He added that the increase is not due to an increase in long-term care facilities. “The increase in cases is mainly attributed to community spread.” 

When asked what steps the City is planning to take to mitigate and suppress the increase in cases, Mr. Ogbu said, “The City will continue employing strategies that have proven effective throughout this pandemic such case interviews, contact tracing, disseminating strong public health messages to the public, community testing, enforcement, working closely with our community facilities  such as in our long-term care facilities/congregate settings, schools and other entities in their infectious disease control and planning efforts.”

 He also said, “City staff monitor hospital capacity in the area on a regular basis and there has been no concern of late regarding hospitals not being able to handle a surge in cases.” 

Gov. Imposes New Restrictions in Suburban Cook County

At the press briefing today, Gov. JB Pritzker said, “Cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations are all rising across the State of Illinois.”

He said two more Regions in the State, Metro East and Suburban Cook County “triggered our metrics for additional mitigations.”

“Suburban Cook County, Region 10, is the first Region in Illinois to trigger additional mitigations not because of its positivity rate alone, but because its positivity rate and its COVID related hospitalizations have both seen a sustained increase over the last 10 days, mirroring the concerning trends that we’re seeing in our hospitals Statewide,” said the Governor.

Both Metro East and Suburban Cook County will join the list of other Regions that are already subject to a Tier 1 mitigation framework starting Wednesday, Oct. 28. In both Regions, indoor dining and indoor bar service will be temporarily closed. For outdoor service, all bar and restaurant patrons should be seated at tables 6 feet apart. Public gatherings are limited to 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity.

“If we all do our part by wearing a mask everywhere you go in public, keeping your distance, avoiding public gatherings and washing your hands frequently, over the next two weeks, we can reduce new hospital admissions and reduce the positivity rate,” said Gov. Pritzker. “That’s what it will take so that we can help our businesses get back on their feet and help our kids go to school safely.”


New COVID-19 Cases in Evanston and Other Risk Factors

There were 16 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today. On Saturday there were 28 new cases and on Sunday there were 23. The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 15.7. There has been a total of 1,404 cases of Evanston residents, 273 of which are active. The above chart shows the recent trend.

In the last 7 days, there were a total of 110 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 146 new cases per 100,000 people in the 7-day period. The State’s 7-day target is 50 per 100,000.

The test positivity rate over the last 7 days is still relatively low at 2.9%.

The total number of Evanstonians who have died due to the virus remains at 74. There have been 3 deaths since July 11.

The Impact of NU on Evanston’s Increase

All Northwestern University (NU) students, staff and faculty who reside in Evanston are included in the case numbers reported above, Mr. Ogbu told the RoundTable. [1]

In the last week there has been a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases of Northwestern students, faculty and staff. Northwestern University posted data on its website reporting that between Oct. 19 and Oct. 25 (the latest period for which data is available) there were 49 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of students, staff and faculty, which includes those who live outside of Evanston.  The test positive rate for NU students, staff and faculty is 0.92%.

The RoundTable has asked NU on two occasions to provide information breaking out the number of new COVID-19 cases by residency in Evanston. NU did not respond to either request.

The RoundTable asked the City in an FOIA Request to provide the number of NU students who reside in Evanston and who tested positive for COVID-19. The City refused to provide the data. On Oct. 26, the RoundTable appealed the City’s decision to the Public Access Counselor of the Attorney General’s Office. .

Suburban Cook County: Criteria Being Used by School Districts 65 and 202

School Districts 65 and 202 are using IDPH’s Risk Metrics and IDPH’s Metrics for School Determination of Community Spread in deciding whether to open their schools.

The metrics all relate to how Region 10 (Suburban Cook County) is doing in managing and suppressing the pandemic. On Oct. 23, District 65 decided to close down some of its in-person learning programs because of spread of the virus. Superintendent Devon Horton said the District will decide by Oct. 30 whether or not to open the schools for in-person learning on Nov. 16.

At this point, the trends look bad.

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. This criterion measures the level of contagion in Suburban Cook County and whether it is at a level that can be contained and suppressed. [2]

On Oct. 26 there were 236 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in Suburban Cook County in a 7-day period, well above the target of 50 cases. This is an increase from 91 on Oct. 1. The first chart in the chart box shows the trend.

To meet this criterion, the total number of new COVID cases in a 7-day period in Suburban Cook County must decline to about 1,330 new cases. In the 7 days preceding Oct. 26, there were 5,836 new cases.

Public health experts convened by Harvard’s Global Health Institute (HGHI) and Edmond J. Safra Center say that a region with more than 169 cases per 100,000 people in a week is in a red zone having “accelerated spread.” [3]

Second, a Test Positivity Rate. The World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins say that the test-positive rate should be below 5% before opening an economy. HGHI and a research/policy collaborative say that a test positive rate of 3% or below is a key indicator of progress towards suppression level testing. [4]

If a community’s test positivity rate is high, it suggests that the community is not testing enough and not locating people who have milder or asymptomatic cases and who may be spreading the virus.

The 7-day test positivity rate of Suburban Cook County as of Oct. 23 was 7.7%. In the prior seven days, it was 6.8%, 7.1%, 7.2%, 7.2%, 7.3%, 7.5%, and 7.7%.  A  chart in the chart box shows the trend.

Third, New COVID-19 Cases in a Week. This criterion looks at the trend, and whether the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Suburban Cook County or decreasing.  The target is that 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 5,836 new COVID-19 cases in Suburban Cook County in the 7-day period Oct. 20 – Oct. 26.

There were 4,826 new cases in Suburban Cook County in the prior 7-day period Oct. 13 – Oct. 19.

Between the two 7-day periods the number of cases increased by 1,010 cases, or by 21%. IDPH deems an increase of 20% or more as “substantial.”

A chart in the chart box shows the trend.

Fourth, Hospital Admissions and Surge Capacity. This criterion is a risk factor monitored by IDPH, but it is not one of the criteria being monitored by Districts 65 or 202.

There were a total of 50 new hospital admissions for suspected COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County on Oct. 23, the most recent date for which data is available. The number is up from 24 on Sept. 1.

IDPH reported that as of Oct. 26, Suburban Cook County has a surplus capacity of 26% of medical/surgical beds and 32% of ICU beds. This is one of the lowest capacities in last two months. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity, so the target is met. The amount of the surplus capacity has been trending downward because hospitals are using more beds for non-Covid-19 cases.

New Cases, Positivity Rate, and Hospitalizations in the State

New Cases: In the State there were 4,729 new cases reported today. The number of new cases reported per day in the last seven days has been 3,113, 3,714, 4,342, 3,874, 6161, 4,026, and 4,729 new cases today.

The current 7-day average of new cases per day is 4,549, which is the highest 7-day average during the entire pandemic.

For purposes of comparison, the average of new cases per day over the seven days ending on May 1 was 2,565, which was the previous high for the State, until the increases in the last several weeks. One of the lowest was 596 cases for the seven days ending June 16.

The trends for the State are shown in the fourth chart in the chart box.

The number of deaths in Illinois due to COVID-19 increased by 17 in the last 24 hours. This brings the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Illinois to 9,522. 

Hospitalizations: On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 2,638 as of midnight on Oct. 25. This is up from 1,596 on Sept. 1. The fifth chart in the chart box shows the trend.

For purposes of comparison, the highest number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 4,868 on May 6.

While the number of cases has increased by about 75% since the peak in May, hospitalizations are down about 50% from the peak in May. One explanation for this is that a much higher percentage of young people are contracting the virus than in May.

The number of patients using ICU beds is 589, up from 347 on Sept. 1.

Test Positive Rate: On a Statewide basis, the 7-day test positive rate today is 6.3%, which is an increase from a low of 2.2% on July 8. [4]

The one day rate is 8.3%.

Number of Tests: The average number of tests per day in the last seven days is 71,711. This is substantially higher than HGHI’s mitigation level testing target of 19,116 per day, and it is slightly higher than HGHI’s suppression level testing target of 68,211 per day. [4].

The number of new tests reported today was 57,264. Starting Oct. 15, IDPH began including antigen tests in its tally of COVID-19 tests. [5] Gov. Pritzker said on Oct. 20 that the percentage or antigen tests in Illinois was very small, about 1% or 2%. With the plan to administer 3 million antigen tests before the end of this year, this will change.

Delays in Getting Test Results: Public health experts convened by HGHI and Edmond J. Safra Center say test results should be obtained within 24 hours.

Gov. Pritzker said on Oct. 23 that the turn-around time for many tests administered  at State run testing sites is two or three days.

A saliva test developed at the University of Illinois can produce results in 3 to 6 hours, and it is being used at U of I, Champaign. [6]  Gov. Pritzker said the plan is to expand this method of testing across the State, especially to other college campuses.

The new antigen tests being distributed by IDPH can generate results in 15 minutes.

Contact Tracing: Widespread contact tracing is also essential to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

IDPH does not report the percentage of cases for which contact tracing begins within 24 hours.



1/ Ike C. Ogbo, Director of Evanston’s Health & Human Services Department, told the RoundTable. He said the City is not considering breaking out the data for any Evanston institution, including Northwestern University, for privacy reasons.

[2] On July 1, a network of research, policy and public health experts convened by Harvard’s Global Health Institute and Edmond J. Safra Center published a Key Metrics for COVID Suppression framework that provides guidance to policy makers and the public on how to target and suppress COVID-19 more effectively across the nation. The targets for new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people are as follows (these are converted from cases per day to cases per week): a) less than one 7 cases: “on track for containment;” b) 7 to 63 cases: “community spread,” rigorous test and trace program advised; c) 70 to 168 cases: “accelerated spread,” stay-at-home orders and/or rigorous test and trace programs advised; and d) 169+: tipping point,” stay-at-home orders necessary. 


3/  Using data compiled from IDPH’s website, the RoundTable has computed the total number of new COVID-19 cases in Suburban Cook County for each 7-day period ending on days between Sept. 13 and Sept. 30. The RoundTable then computed the number of COVID cases per 100,000 people in Suburban Cook County using a population of 2,469,662.

4/  On May 26, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center said on its website that “the World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments [on May 15] that before reopening, rates of positivity in testing (i.e., out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19) should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days.”

Johns Hopkins explains, “The rate of positivity is an important indicator, because it can provide insights into whether a community is conducting enough testing to find cases. If a community’s positivity is high, it suggests that that community may largely be testing the sickest patients and possibly missing milder or asymptomatic cases. A lower positivity may indicate that a community is including in its testing patients with milder or no symptoms.”  Link:

The Harvard Global Health Institute posted a paper, “July 6, 2020/State Testing Targets,” in which it published state testing targets in collaboration with NPR and also explained “how we can  best use testing targets not as an ultimate goal but as a tool on the path to zero cases.” HGHI said, “And we have begun to work closely with the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard and other researchers, public health and policy experts across the U.S. to align on key aspects of what we think is needed to get the nation back on track.

“Five months into this pandemic, what we need more than ever is still a robust testing, tracing and supported isolation infrastructure, combined with various measures of social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. We have made some progress, but not nearly enough. Unsurprisingly, new daily cases are reaching record highs, and getting ahead of this virus seems all but impossible.”

HGHI published two targets for testing for each state: one for what it calls “mitigation” level of testing, and second for what it calls a “suppression” level of testing.

The targets for Illinois are 19,116 tests per day to meet a mitigation level of testing, and 68,211 tests a day to meet a suppression level of testing.

Mitigation Level Testing: HGHI says for mitigation level testing, “The focus is on reducing the spread of the virus through broad testing of symptomatic people, tracing and testing a recommended 10 contacts per new case and isolating positive contacts, and social distancing, mask wearing or stay-at-home orders as necessary. 

“There is a challenge with this approach: As states open up, mitigation level testing is often not sufficient to prevent new outbreaks.

“With strict social distancing orders in place, cases go down, but then spike back up again as a state loosens restrictions. It’s a rollercoaster of recurring outbreaks that creates great uncertainty, for example around reopening businesses, schools, and other vital parts of the economy.”

Suppression Level Testing: HGHI says, “Suppression level testing allows a state or community to quickly find and isolate new cases before they lead to a wider outbreak, with an aim of keeping new case levels at or near zero.

“This requires large, proactive testing — including regular testing of asymptomatic people in high-risk environments such as nursing homes, colleges, and parts of the service industry — paired with rapid contact tracing and supported isolation (TTSI), as well as other measures. Several states are working hard to build and maintain this type of response, including Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut.  

 “Suppression level TTSI programs reduce uncertainty and allow life to return to something closer to normal — but still include mask-wearing, social distancing, handwashing and other measures. It is easier to do when case counts are relatively low or on the decline.”

Test Positive Rate: HGHI says, “A network of research, policy, and public health organizations convened by Harvard and MIT called the TTSI Collaborative has agreed on a 3% test positive rate or below as a key indicator of progress towards suppression level testing. This targets broad and accessible testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic people. Out of the positive tests that do not come from hotspot testing, at least 80% should come from contact tracing.”

Link to HGHI’s report:

Link to NPR’s article:

5/ The Illinois Department of Public Health announced on Oct. 15 that is including both molecular and antigen tests in the number of statewide total test performed in Illinois. “Previously, due to the limited number of antigen tests and limited information about antigen test accuracy, antigen tests were not included in the total number (which comprised less than 1% of total tests performed). Antigen tests, like BinaxNOW™, are now becoming more readily available, therefore, IDPH will include both molecular and antigen tests in its total number of tests starting October 15, 2020. 

Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology and assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said an antigen test detects if there is an antigen which is one of the proteins in the virus, while the PCR test looks for the RNA of the virus. He said the initial rapid antigen tests would largely only detect people during their window when they are likely to be transmitting the virus.

7/  On Aug. 19, the University of Illinois received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to run a saliva-based COVID-19 test. “The saliva test is less expensive, faster, and requires significantly less raw materials than traditional testing,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “If ongoing research continues to yield positive results, this has potentially game changing implications for our State-wide testing complex as well as for testing on a national level, particularly for our high risk communities and settings.

“This type of scalable product would allow us to mass deploy testing, and better track and contain the spread of COVID-19. We’re already working to deploy this to more public universities across the State over the next weeks and months and exploring rolling this out to do testing potentially for K-12 schools and even more testing at our long-term care facilities,” said the Governor.

Dr. Martin Burke, who put the research team together that developed the test, said that in a trial run in July, they were able to get “very fast test results, in many cases in 3 to 6 hours,” which enabled them to rapidly isolate people who were infected with the virus and to contact trace. They were able to reduce the test positivity rate from 1.5% to 0.2% during the month, he said.

Dr. Burke said “speed is the key.” The test is “very well suited to scalability” and the cost is about $10 a test. He added that the University has capacity to administer 20,000 tests a day.




Larry Gavin

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...