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At the briefing today, Gov. JB Pritzker expressed “optimism and hope.” He said, “As of this morning, the first shipments of the first FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Illinois.

“Our own Illinois independent review board today released its findings after spending the weekend ferociously diving into all available FDA data on the Pfizer vaccine,” said Gov. Pritzker. “And I’m pleased to say that the team has unanimously endorsed the CDC recommendations on the vaccine.”

Gov. Pritzker summarized some of the recommendations that the CDC made over the weekend. He said CDC has approved Pfizer’s vaccine for all Americans 16 years old and over.

He said the CDC says that people who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past can still get the vaccine when it is their turn, but they should discuss the risks with their doctor. Gov. Pritzker said the CDC does not recommend special precautions for people with only non-vaccine allergies, such as  bees or peanut butter.

 The CDC has also recommended that pregnant women have a discussion with their doctor weighing the risk of taking the vaccine or waiting for more data on vaccine safety.

“Today marks a momentous occasion, not just this year, but in American history,” said Gov. Pritzker. “Eleven months after scientists the world over got their hands on the genetic sequence of the virus, we are seeing the beginning of the end of this pandemic. This is an incredible testament to our research institutions, to our scientists, to the medical professionals who worked tirelessly every day.”

The FDA is scheduled to consider approval of the Madonna vaccine on Thursday and, if approved, shipments of that vaccine could begin next week, he said.

“Today is a great day in our fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of Illinois Department of Public Health. “It is the beginning of the end of this pandemic. But we are not there yet. There are still many months ahead before we eventually end this pandemic. But we will get there together as soon as we can by all working together.”

Dr. Ezike said, “We’re working with our local health departments and our hospitals to get the vaccine into the arms of those who need it most as quickly as possible.

“However, I want to remind people … that there is only a limited number of doses of the vaccine right now. And so, we will be following the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on who should be prioritized in this round.

“Vaccines are prioritized for individuals who are at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19, workers in the healthcare setting and those who are at the greatest risk of severe illness. We all know that to be our loved ones in the long-term care facilities.

“As more vaccine becomes available, more individuals will be eligible to receive the vaccine. But until that time, please again, you’ve heard this word patience. Let’s exercise patience and understand that there may be others who will get the vaccine before you.”

Until the vaccine is widely administered, Dr. Ezike said people still need to wear masks, avoid crowds, watch their distance, and wash their hands.


EVANSTON:  26 New COVID-19 Cases Today

There were 26 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today. On Saturday there were 22 and yesterday there were 30.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 24.6.  For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.

There has been a total of 2,731 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 401 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. [1]

In the last seven days, there was a total of 176 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 228 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 5.3%. The rate is up from 2.8% on Nov. 1.

One Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.  The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is not 90.

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 Dec. 7 and Dec. 130, there were 13 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of faculty, staff and students. The number includes those who live outside of Evanston. 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.  Other key metrics are the capacity of hospitals to care for a surge of new patients, and the number of deaths.

First, New Cases.  In Suburban Cook County, there were 1,367 new COVID-19 cases today, and 1,691 in Chicago, for a total of 3,058, down from 3,488 yesterday.

 In the State, there were 7,214 new cases reported today.

Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 8,550. This is down from an all-time high of 12,380 on Nov. 17, and also down from the seven-day average of 9,994 one week ago on Dec. 7. 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.

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. There are several benchmark numbers.  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 there is “community spread” if cases per 100,000 are between 7 and 63, and that there is “accelerated spread” if they are between 70 and168. [3]

In the seven days ending Dec. 14, the number of new cases per 100,000 people was as follows for the areas indicated:

       Suburban Cook County:  464 (compared to 97 on Oct. 1)

       Chicago:  417 (compared to 86 on Oct. 1)

       Illinois:  472 (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 eight times IDPH’s target.

An accompanying chart shows the trend in the number of new cases during the week ending Dec. 14, compared to the number of new cases for the weeks ending Oct. 1 and Dec. 7. [4]

The chart shows that the number of new cases per 100,000 on Dec. 14 are down from where they were on Dec. 7 for Chicago, Suburban Cook County and the State.

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. 14 are as follows:

       Suburban Cook County:  12.8%

       Chicago:  12.5%

       Illinois:  10.3%

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 2,508 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of Dec. 13, up from 1,456 on Nov. 1. The number of hospitalizations has, however, gone down by about 300 since Dec. 1.

IDPH reported that, as of Dec. 13, Suburban Cook County has a surplus capacity of 20% of medical/surgical beds and 19% 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 4,951 as of midnight on Dec. 13. This 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 1,070, up from 347 on Sept. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 621, up from 142 on Sept. 1.

Deaths: On a Statewide basis, there were 103 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 14,394.

For the last seven days, the numbers of deaths in the State are 145, 179, 196, 190, 127, 115, and 103 today. The seven-day average is 149. 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.  Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of IDPH, said on Oct. 30, “You have COVID if you come up with a positive on the 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 calculates 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%.

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...