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In the last four days, there has been a significant increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases, compared to the prior four days. At the State level, the average number of new cases in the last four days is 12,712. In the prior four days, the average number of new cases is 7,204. Some explanations offered for these numbers are that fewer people were tested in the earlier four days due to the Thanksgiving holiday; and more people tested positive in the latter four days due to spread of the virus during the holiday.

There were 148 additional deaths due to COVID-19 reported today. The seven-day average is 136. For purposes of comparison, in the spring the highest seven-day average was 118.

The State’s Plan to Distribute Vaccines

Gov. JB Pritzker outlined the State’s plan to distribute vaccines at his briefing this afternoon. He said two companies had filed applications for emergency approval with the FDA, and the FDA is scheduled to consider Pfizer on Dec. 10, and Modena’s shortly after that.

Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses given three weeks apart and requires extremely cold storage, minus 70 degrees Celsius. It had a 95% effective rate in its phase 3 trial.

Moderna’s vaccine requires two doses administered four weeks apart. It also had a very high effective rate in its phase 3 trial. It can be stored long term at standard freezer temperatures and for 30 days in refrigerators, so its distribution is less complicated.

A number of other vaccines He said multiple other vaccine candidates are in their final stages of tests.

Gov. Pritzker emphasized, “Illinois will only distribute a vaccine that is deemed safe. In addition to the thorough review at the FDA, Illinois is one of many states that have established additional review panels, including Indiana, California, New York, West Virginia, and Michigan. There’s an all hands-on deck effort to ensure the most thorough evaluation possible. But all signs to date are astoundingly promising. Never before have we seen an early vaccine study, like the studies that have come out for these vaccines of this scale that have demonstrated such high levels of protection.”

 The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ASIP), a group of public health and medical professionals, has provided an initial set of recommendations on who should receive the first round of available vaccines. “Their focus initially is on the nation’s 21 million healthcare workers and 3 million long-term-care residents. This is phase one of a vaccine distribution.

“The goal here is to fortify the healthcare workforce by removing these most exposed workers from the cycle of quarantine, illness and infection, as well as protecting our most vulnerable residents.

“Nationally, long-term care facility residents represent 6% of known COVID-19 cases, but 40% of known COVID-19 deaths.”

 In Illinois, Gov. Pritzker said there are 655,000 people who qualify as frontline health care workers, 162,000 in Chicago and 493,000 outside of Chicago. He added there about 110,000 adults statewide who live in congregate settings, including long-term care facilities or assisted-living residences. About 16,000  live in Chicago.

CDC has allocated 23,000 doses of the vaccine to Chicago and 86,000 doses to the rest of the State. If Pfizer’s vaccine is approved by the FDA on Dec. 10, the vaccine will be shipped the following week. There will be shipments of more and more doses after that.

In Illinois to implement the recommendations of ASIP and the CDC, “the very first vaccinations will be dedicated to hospitals and health care workers in the 50 counties with the highest death rates per capita,” said Gov. Pritzker, adding that it will take “multiple weeks” to vaccinate them and the residents of long-term-care facilities.


Gov. Pritzker said, “ASIP has prioritized not only healthcare workers and long-term-care residents, but also what they’re calling essential workers, including first responders, all those older than age 65, and those who have multiple comorbidities, or high-risk medical conditions. ASIP is expected to soon offer further guidance on the order of those groups after phase one.

“We also know that for many reasons, Black and Brown Americans have disproportionately suffered deaths from COVID-19 in their communities,” said Gov. Pritzker. “ASIP is currently considering specific allocations of the vaccine, before expanding to the remainder of the population. And Illinois will account for their expert recommendation in the next tiers of distribution with a focused eye on equity.”

He said this will not be a quick process, and “It will likely be months before people with low-risk factors for COVID-19 see their first dose. But the very fact that we have this timeline is the result of incredible private sector innovation, and long-standing public investment in scientific research.


“And now it’s on all of us to keep wearing our masks, keep our distance and find the patience to allow the vaccines to be distributed, so that we can put this difficult chapter in the history books.”








EVANSTON: 37 New COVID-19 Cases Today

There were 37 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today, up from 24 yesterday, but down from the 63 reported on Wednesday.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 29.  For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.

There has been a total of 2,477 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 372 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. [1]

In the last seven days, there was a total of 203 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 270 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 5.9%. The rate is up from 2.8% on Nov. 1.

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

The Impact of NU on Evanston’s Increase in Cases

All Northwestern University (NU) 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, and faculty who live outside Evanston are not included. [2]

Northwestern University has posted data on its website reporting that between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2, there were 34 new confirmed COVID-19 cases: 7 faculty, 10 staff, 6 undergraduate students, and 11 non-undergraduate students. The number includes those who live outside of Evanston. The University’s test positivity rate is 1.83. 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 2,041 new COVID-19 cases today, and 1,766 in Chicago, for a total of 3,807 The total has fluctuated this week from 1,559 on Monday, and then to 4,953, 3,412, 4,179, and then 3,807 today.

 In the State, there were 10,526 new cases reported today, down from 10,529 yesterday.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 9,289. This is down from 12,343 on Nov. 13, but up from 8,688 on Nov. 29. While the trend has been fluctuating, 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. Healthcare experts fear that the number of cases will increase in the near future due to the 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. 4, the number of new cases per 100,000 people was as follows for the areas indicated:

Suburban Cook County:  506 (compared to 97 on Oct. 1)

Chicago:  397 (compared to 86 on Oct. 1)

Illinois:  490 (compared to 111 on Oct. 1)

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

An accompanying chart shows the trend in the number of new cases during the week ending Dec. 4, compared to the number of new cases for the weeks ending Oct. 1 and Nov. 27. [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. 4 is lower than the number on Nov. 27 for Suburban Cook County, Chicago, and the State. The seven-day trend of new cases is 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. 3 are as follows:

Suburban Cook County:  12.9%

Chicago:  12.3%

Illinois:  12.3%

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

Fourth, Hospital Admissions and Surge Capacity. There were 2,781 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of Dec. 2, up from 1,456 on Nov. 1. The number of hospitalizations has, however, been declining in the last six days.

IDPH reported that, as of Dec. 2, Suburban Cook County has a surplus capacity of 18% of medical/surgical beds and 16% of ICU beds; and Chicago has a surplus capacity of 18% of medical/surgical beds and 20% of ICU beds. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity.

On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 5,653, as of midnight on Dec. 2. 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 800 more than the peak last spring.

The number of patients using ICU beds is 1,153, up from 347 on Sept. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 703, 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 92,454. This is higher than HGHI’s “mitigation” level testing target, but about only about 45% of the amount needed to meet HGHI’s “suppression” level testing target.  [6].

The number of new tests reported today was 112,674.  This includes antigen tests.

Sixth: 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.

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: On a Statewide basis, there were 148 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 12,974.

For the last seven days, the numbers of deaths in the State are 107, 57, 85, 125, 238, 191, and 148 today. The seven-day average is 136. For purposes of comparison, in the spring the highest seven-day average was 118.



1/ Antigen Tests. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced on Oct. 15 that 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. J.B. 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 which 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 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 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.  The article is available here: https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/

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: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/testing/testing-positivity

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 7 day average of testing is 564 tests per day. Link to paper: https://globalepidemics.org/october-1-testing-targets/

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, including Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, are working hard to build and maintain this type of response.  

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

Link to HGHI’s report: https://globalepidemics.org/july-6-2020-state-testing-targets/

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 together the research team 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 three to six 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. Link:  https://evanstonroundtable.com/Content/City-News/City-News/Article/Illinois-rapid-saliva-test-for-COVID-19-now-operating-under-FDA-Emergency-Use-Authorization/15/26/18440


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...