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Dec. 8:  Twenty-one New COVID-19 Cases in Evanston, 7,910 in the State

The seven-day averages of new COVID-19 cases today show a slight increase from a week ago, and the number of hospitalizations which had been declining for more than a week held steady at a rate still above the peak during the spring.

There were 145 deaths due to COVID-19 reported today. The seven-day average of deaths is the highest in the entire pandemic.

FDA Scientists Report on Pfizer’s Vaccine

Food and Drug Administration scientists issued a lengthy report today confirming the safety and effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine. The report found that the vaccine was 95% effective at preventing COVID-19, and also found that it began to protect people after the first of the two doses contemplated by Pfizer for maximum effectiveness. The report noted that the vaccine had some short-term side effects, including sore arms, fatigue, headaches, and chills that passed within one or two days.

This report may clear the way for the FDA to issue emergency approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday. If the FDA issues approval then, the vaccines could be delivered as early as this weekend, and if not then, next week, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, this afternoon.

After the initial delivery, the State is expecting weekly deliveries of the vaccine, as well as shipments of other vaccines that may be approved. The FDA is scheduled to consider Moderna’s application for emergency approval of its vaccine later this month. Other companies have vaccines in phase three trials.

Gov. JB Pritzker emphasized again today that a vaccine would not be administered in Illinois unless the State’s vaccine advisory team signed off on its efficacy and safety.

Dr. Ezike said the Illinois’ vaccine advisory team, which she said includes clinicians, scientists and researchers, was versed in the science of vaccines and was already poring over the information that was released this morning by the FDA concerning the actual trials of Pfizer’s vaccine, and that the team would review any additional information from the FDA immediately.

“Everybody understands the urgency and everyone’s going to put this as their top priority,” said Dr. Ezike.

She said that part of their role is to educate the public about the vaccine, particularly marginalized groups who may not trust the government or distrust vaccines.

The plan is to administer the drug initially to residents of long-term care facilities and healthcare workers. After that, proposals are to administer the vaccine to “essential workers” and after that to people over 65 and adults who have a high-risk health condition.

It will likely be months before vaccines are available to the general public, said Dr. Ezike.

“This is a process that’s going to be in flux, and amended and updated and upgraded for the entire, you know, for all of next year. We understand that people have questions, and we’ll continue to answer them. But please understand that we’re continuing to evolve as we move through this,” said Dr. Ezike.

“It’s going to be an all in Illinois effort,” she said. “People will go to their doctor’s offices. There will be mass vaccination drives, some will be held in churches, some people will go to pharmacies, they will go to the federally qualified health centers, they will go to their local health departments, there will be many different groups that will be participating in this effort. There are there’s a myriad of opportunities to get the vaccine. We’re even working at the State level to have some drive through vaccination efforts.

“We will need all hands on board to be able to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible so we can get back to our normal lives, get back to our great economy, get back to living life the way we were used to in 2019.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Pritzker and Dr. Ezike asked everyone to adhere to the mitigations, wear masks, and keep safe distances.


EVANSTON: 21 New COVID-19 Cases Today

There were 21 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 32.4 For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.

There has been a total of 2,580 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 351 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. [1]

In the last seven days, there was a total of 227 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 302 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 jumped to 8.2%. The rate is up from 2.8% on Nov. 1.

No Evanstonian is reported to have died due to COVID-19 in the last eight 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. 30 and Dec. 6, there were 34 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of faculty, staff, and students. The number includes those who live outside of Evanston. The University’s test positivity rate is 1.33. 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 1,332 new COVID-19 cases today, and 1,179 in Chicago, for a total of 2,511. This is down from the 3,700 new cases reported yesterday.

In the State, there were 7,910 new cases reported today.

Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 9,315. This is down from the high of 12,380 on Nov. 17, but up from 9,251 on Dec. 1. 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 in the spring. 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 still fear that the number of new cases may 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. 8, the number of new cases per 100,000 people was as follows for the areas indicated:

       Suburban Cook County: 513 (compared to 97 on Oct. 1)

       Chicago: 464 (compared to 86 on Oct. 1)

       Illinois: 515 (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 nine times IDPH’s target.

An accompanying chart shows the trend in the number of new cases during the week ending Dec. 8, compared to the number of new cases for the weeks ending Oct. 1 and Dec. 1. [4]

The chart shows that the number of new cases per 100,000 on Dec. 8 is slightly higher than the number on Dec. 1 for Suburban Cook County, Chicago, and the State. After declining for several weeks, the seven-day trend of new cases is flattening or slightly rising.

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. 7 are as follows:

       Suburban Cook County: 12.7%

       Chicago: 12.6%

       Illinois: 11.8%

Each positivity rate 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 2,648 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of Dec. 7, up from 1,456 on Nov. 1. The number of hospitalizations has, however, gone down by almost 200 in the last week.

IDPH reported that, as of Dec. 8, Suburban Cook County has a surplus capacity of 21% of medical/surgical beds and 17% of ICU beds; and Chicago has a surplus capacity of 19% of medical/surgical beds and 21% of ICU beds. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity.

On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 5,199, as of midnight on Dec. 7. 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 patients using ICU beds is 1,071, up from 347 on Sept. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 626, 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 94,365. 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 95,825. 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 Dec. 4, showing the amount of contact tracing done in the period Aug. 1 through Nov. 28.

For Suburban Cook County, contact tracers attempted to interview 16% of the people who tested positive for COVID’19, and interviewed 11% of them. Of the close contacts identified by the people who tested positive, contact tracers attempted to call 64% and interviewed 56%

For Chicago, contact tracers attempted to interview 30% 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 63% and interviewed 34%.

Deaths: On a Statewide basis, there were 145 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 13,487.

For the last seven days, the numbers of deaths in the State are 238, 191, 148, 208, 74, 90, and 145 today. The seven-day average is 156. 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...