Scientists with the Food and Drug Administration released this morning their analysis of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. The report concluded that Moderna’s vaccine has a favorable safety profile and that there are no specific safety concerns that would preclude issuance of an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The report also found that, overall, it is 94% effective in preventing infection by the COVID-19 virus.

A panel of experts is scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide whether to recommend that the FDA issue an EUA for Moderna’s vaccine.

Governor JB Pritzker said this afternoon the committee found that Moderna’s vaccine was 96% effective for those between 18 and 65 and 86% effective for those over 65.” By all likelihood this means that our shipments starting next week will include both Pfizer and Moderna bottles,” he said.

One advantage of Moderna’s vaccine is that it does not need to be stored in super-cold freezers, but can be kept at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, and once it is thawed it, it can be stored at 36 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 days.

While access to Moderna’s vaccine will increase the supply of doses, the experts say it will likely be at least four to six months before enough people are vaccinated to develop herd immunity. And that depends on whether a sufficient number of people are willing to be vaccinated.

In the meantime, everyone is encouraged to wear masks, avoid gatherings, and keep a social distance.

After two days of good news about the vaccines, Gov. Pritzker delivered some somber news about the State’s financial situation. He said the pandemic has not only severely impacted American families and businesses, but every state budget in the nation.

He said, “Here in Illinois, the loss of State tax revenue from COVID-19 will cost us in excess of $4 billion.

“We have a projected budget shortfall of over $3.9 billion for this fiscal year, nearly $2 billion of which was created by the revenue shortfall from COVID.

“Today, as a first step toward balancing the current year’s budget, I’m presenting over $700 million in initial cuts to our executive branch agencies. These are cuts that are under my control to make as governor without help from the General Assembly.

“This gets us part of the way toward addressing the budget deficit. For additional and more permanent balancing of our budgets going forward. I will work with the legislature. But make no mistake, legislative action and engagement is required. While short-term federal help may yet come, we need to take action to maintain fiscal stability over the long run and address the problems that plagued Illinois pre pandemic.”

Gov. Pritzker said, “Over the years State government in Illinois has been notoriously hollowed out. For example, there are approximately 25% fewer State government employees today than there were two decades ago. Also, State government spending on education is now among the lowest in the nation. … If anything, our schools and our public safety and health care deserve more investments, not less. So, cutting our budget will be by its very nature, painful.”

Gov. Pritzker said he had hoped to raise additional revenues through a graduated income tax – if the Referendum had passed. The choices now were to cut expenses and/or raised Illinois flat income tax, both of which would be painful to middle- and low-income families.


EVANSTON:  25 New COVID-19 Cases Today

There were 25 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 25.1.  For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.

There has been a total of 2,756 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 405 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 5.4%. The rate is up from 2.8% on Nov. 1.

No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.  The number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at 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 1,350 new COVID-19 cases today, and 1,197 in Chicago, for a total of 2,547, down from 3,058 yesterday.

 In the State, there were 7,358 new cases reported today.

Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 8,472. This is down from an all-time high of 12,380 on Nov. 17, and also down from the seven-day average of 9,315 one week ago on Dec. 8. This is the fifth day in a row that new cases have declined. 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. 15, the number of new cases per 100,000 people was as follows for the areas indicated:

       Suburban Cook County:  465 (compared to 97 on Oct. 1)

       Chicago:  418 (compared to 86 on Oct. 1)

       Illinois:  468 (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. 15, compared to the number of new cases for the weeks ending Oct. 1 and Dec. 8. [4]

The chart shows that the number of new cases per 100,000 on Dec. 15 are down from where they were on Dec. 8 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. 15 are as follows:

       Suburban Cook County:  12.6%

       Chicago:  12.4%

       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 2,492 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of Dec. 14, up from 1,456 on Nov. 1. The number of hospitalizations has, however, gone down by about 325 since Dec. 1.

IDPH reported that, as of Dec. 14, 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 21% of ICU beds. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity.

On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 4,965 as of midnight on Dec. 14. 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 1,057, up from 347 on Sept. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 598, up from 142 on Sept. 1.

Deaths: On a Statewide basis, there were 117 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 14,509.

For the last seven days, the numbers of deaths in the State are 179, 196, 190, 127, 115, 103, and 117 today. The seven-day average is 147. 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:

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:

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 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...