In the last three days, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Evanston jumped from 8 to 31 to 63. The number of new cases in the State fluctuated from 6,190 to 12,542 to 9,757. The most stark statistic today was that 238 Illinoisans died in the last 24 hours due to COVID-19, an all-time high.

Gov. JB Pritzker said this afternoon that the number of deaths reported in the last 24 hours “far surpassed our previous single-day high record of 191 fatalities in mid-May.” He said, “It’s likely that some of this increase can be attributed to a data lag. We also know that higher case numbers, higher numbers of hospitalizations, do lead tragically to even more lives lost.

“We’ve surpassed the spring records by the thousands in recent weeks. We’ll continue to watch these numbers closely in the coming weeks to have a better picture of our trajectory.

“This virus is a killer,” Gov. Pritzker added, “Let’s honor every one of those that it has taken by doing everything that we can to prevent more people from getting sick and dying. Wear your mask, keep your distance, stay home whenever you can. We’ll get through this.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), said there is some good news. “We do know that you have a much better chance of surviving COVID-19 in the hospital now as opposed to in wave one [in the spring].” In addition, she said, “The average length of stay was about nine to 11 days in wave one, and it’s about seven to nine for wave two. So we’ve cut some time off. Again, know that some stays are multiple weeks, even months, but the average has dropped.

“I credit that to a lot of the learning that was done from wave one.” Dr. Ezike mentioned the practice of turning a patient into a prone position, using steroids to curb a hyper-inflammatory response, and using Remdesivir and Regeneron and an Eli Lilly product that can decrease the chances of a patient’s going into the hospital if it is used early in the infection.

 “So I am so proud of our medical professionals and how they’ve come along and learned from their experience and are sharing that experience with others. But the idea, again, is always prevention; and let’s avoid getting the infection in the first place.

“I ask every Illinoisan to do their part in getting through this pandemic. We’ve already lost too many lives. Yes, we’ve lost our normalcy, but we shouldn’t lose hope. We’ll work together and we will prevent the spread of this virus. And we can do that by masking up, washing up, and backing up.”

The State is still making plans to distribute vaccines if they are approved by the CDC, as expected in the next few weeks. The State is expecting to get 109,000 doses that it plans to use to vaccinate health-care workers in hospitals and residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

EVANSTON: 63 New COVID-19 Cases Today

There were 63 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today, an increase from 31 yesterday and 8 the day before. The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 25.9.  For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.

There has been a total of 2,416 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 388 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. [1]

In the last seven days, there was a total of 181 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 241 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven-day period. The State’s seven-day target is 50 per 100,000.

The test positivity rate over the last seven days is 5.5%. The rate is up from 2.8% on Nov. 1.

No Evanstonian is reported to have died due to COVID-19 in the last 48 hours. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at 88.

The Impact of NU on Evanston’s Increase in Cases

All Northwestern University students, staff and faculty who live in Evanston and who test positive for COVID-19 are included in the case numbers reported above, according to the City. NU students, staff, or faculty who live outside Evanston are not included. [2]

Northwestern University has posted data on its website reporting that between Nov. 20 and Nov. 26 there were 50 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of students, staff, and faculty, which includes those who live outside of Evanston.  Between Nov. 23 and 29, NU says there were 27 cases. The City claims it does not know how many of these cases are people who live in Evanston. [2]


Several key metrics used by IDPH to measure the spread of COVID-19 are the trend of new cases, the number of new cases per 100,000 population, and the test positivity rate.  Another key metric is the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and hospitals’ capacity to care for a surge of new patients.

First, New Cases.  In Suburban Cook County, there were 1,971 new COVID-19 cases today, and 1,441 in Chicago, for a total of 3,412. This is down from yesterday’s total of 4,953, but above Monday’s total of 1,559.

In the State there were 9,797 new cases reported today, down from 12,542 yesterday.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 9,005. This is down from 12,343 on Nov. 13. While the trend has been down, the number of new cases is still very high.

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 month. The seven-day average today is more than three times that.

The trends of new cases in suburban Cook County, Chicago, and the State are shown in accompanying charts. One significant point is that the seven-day average of new cases for each of these public bodies has been flat or declining since about Nov. 13. Health-care experts fear that the number of cases will increase in the near future due to travel and gatherings for Thanksgiving.

Second, New Cases per 100,000 Population. This criterion measures the level of contagion in an area and whether it is at a level that can be contained and suppressed. IDPH’s target is that there be fewer than 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in a geographic area in a seven-day period. Harvard’s Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the Edmond J. Safra Center say that a stay-at-home order is necessary when the weekly cases exceed 169. [3]

In the seven days ending Dec. 2, the number of new cases per 100,000 people were as follows:

        Suburban Cook County: 484 (compared to 97 on Oct. 1 )

        Chicago: 401 (compared to 86 on Oct. 1)

        Illinois: 498 (compared to 111 on Oct. 1)

The new cases are four times the number for the week ending Oct. 1, and each is at least eight times IDPH’s target.

An accompanying chart shows the trend in the number of new cases during the week ending Dec. 2, compared to the number of new cases for the weeks ending Oct. 1 and Nov. 25. [4]

Importantly, the chart shows that while the number of new cases per 100,000 is still very high, the number of new cases per 100,000 on Dec. 2 is lower than the number on Nov. 25 for Suburban Cook County, Chicago, and the State.  The seven-day trend of new cases is still declining.

Third, a Test Positivity Rate. IDPH’s target is that the test positivity rate be 5% or less, although HGHI and other leading experts say it should be 3% or less.  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. [5]

The most recent seven-day test positivity rates as of Dec. 1 are as follows:

        Suburban Cook County: 12.4%

        Chicago: 12.0%

        Illinois: 12.5%

Each positivity rate has declined in the last 14 days. But each is still more than double IDPH’s target and is almost four times that of other leading experts. An accompanying chart highlights the rates.

Fourth, Hospital Admissions and Surge Capacity. There were 2,821 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in suburban Cook County and Chicago as of Dec. 1, up from 1,456 on Nov. 1.

IDPH reported that as of Dec. 1, suburban Cook County has a surplus capacity of 20% of medical/surgical beds and 18% of ICU beds; and Chicago has a surplus capacity of 21% of medical/surgical beds and 22% of ICU beds. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity.

On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 5,764 as of midnight on Dec. 1. The number is down from an all-time high of 6,171 on Nov. 23. A chart in the chart box shows the trend.

For purposes of comparison, the highest number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the spring was 4,868 on May 6. The number of hospitalizations today is almost 900 more than the peak last spring.

The number of patients using ICU beds is 1,190, up from 347 on Sept. 1. Patients on ventilators is 714, up from 142 on Sept. 1.

If additional hospital beds are needed in suburban Cook County and Chicago, the contingency plan is to increase bed capacity by doing the same things that were done in the spring, Gov. Pritzker said on Nov. 10.

Fifth, Number of Tests. The average number of tests per day in the last seven days is 87,487. This is higher than HGHI’s “mitigation” level testing target but only about 45% of the amount needed to meet HGHI’s “suppression” level testing target.  [6]

The number of new tests reported today was 85,507.  This includes antigen tests.

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

Dr. Ezike said on Nov. 12 that 53% of the lab tests come back in 48 hours, an indication that the results on almost half of the cases are coming in later. With the surge in the number of tests being administered, the lag time is getting longer, said Gov. Pritzker on Nov. 25.

A saliva test developed at the University of Illinois can produce results in three to six hours, and it is being used at U of I, Champaign. [7]  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.

Seventh, Contact Tracing. Widespread contact tracing is also essential to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. IDPH posted data on Nov. 27 showing the amount of contact tracing done in the period Aug. 1 through Nov. 21.

For suburban Cook County, contact tracers attempted to interview 16% of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 and interviewed 12% of them. Of the close contacts identified by the people who tested positive, contact tracers attempted to call 62% and interviewed 55%.

For Chicago, contact tracers attempted to interview 31% of the people who tested positive for COVID-19, and interviewed 16% of them. Of the close contacts identified by the people who tested positive, contact tracers attempted to call 61% and interviewed 34%.

Deaths. There were 238 deaths Statewide in the last 24 hours, which is a record high for the entire pandemic. There has been a total of 12,639 deaths due to COVID-19.

For the last seven days the number of deaths in the State, as adjusted, are 131, 66, 107, 57, 85, 125, and 238 today.



1/ Antigen Tests. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced on Oct. 15 that it is including both molecular (PCR) and antigen tests in the number of Statewide total tests performed in Illinois and that it is including the positive test results on antigen tests in the confirmed COVID-19 cases reported. “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,” said the Illinois Department of Public Health. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of IDPH, said on Oct. 30, “You have COVID if you come up with a positive on the antigen test.” Gov. JB Pritzker said it is “very, very likely” that a person had COVID-19 if they test positive on an antigen test. The State’s plan is to administer 3 million antigen tests provided by the federal government by the end of this year.

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 that is one of the proteins in the virus, while the PCR test looks for the RNA of the virus.

2/ Northwestern University COVID-19 Cases. Ike C. Ogbo, Director of Evanston’s Health & Human Services Department, told the RoundTable that the COVID-19 cases reported by the City include cases of faculty, staff and students attending Northwestern University who live in Evanston. The RoundTable asked the City in an FOIA Request to provide the number of NU students who tested positive for COVID-19 and who live in Evanston. 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. On Nov. 13, the City filed a response claiming it does not have any records showing the number of NU students who tested positive for COVID-19 and who live in Evanston.

The RoundTable has asked Northwestern University on two occasions to provide information breaking out the number of new COVID-19 cases of its faculty, staff, and students by residency in Evanston. NU did not respond to either request.

 3/ Number of Cases per 100,000 Population. 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-19 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) fewer than seven cases: “on track for containment;” b) seven 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.  The article is available here:

IDPH provides these categories and ratings: 1) “minimal” – fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 in a week; 2) “moderate” – between 50 and 100 cases per week; and 3) “substantial” – more than 100 cases per 100,000 in a week. In its Metrics for School Determination of Community Spread, IDPH says the “target” is 50 cases per week per 100,000 people.

4/ Calculations. The RoundTable calculated the number of cases per 100,000 using case data provided by IDPH and assuming that the population of Suburban Cook County is 2.469 million, that the population of Chicago is 2.710 million, and that the population of Illinois is 12.671 million.

5/ The Test Positivity Rate. 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 (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.”

While stating the test positivity target is 5% or less, IDPH provides these categories and ratings: 1) “Minimal” – test positivity rate is equal to or less than 5%: 2) “Moderate” – test positivity rate is between 5% and 8%; and 3) “Substantial” – test positivity rate is over 8%. In its Metrics for School Determination of Community Spread, IDPH says the target is 5%.

6/ How Much Testing Should be Done. The Harvard Global Health Institute posted a paper showing testing targets as of Oct. 1, 2020. The targets for Illinois are 438 tests per 100,000 people to meet the mitigation target and 1,602 tests per day to meet the suppression target. The paper says that Illinois seven-day average of testing is 564 tests per day. Link to paper:

Mitigation Level Testing: In an earlier paper, 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.”

Link to HGHI’s report:

7/ Saliva-based Tests. 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. 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 of Illinois has the capacity to administer 20,000 tests a day. Link:


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...