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CDC reported today that there was a total of 1,261,960 new COVID-19 cases in the nation in the last seven days, or more than an average of 180,000 per day. Yesterday, there were 3,628 additional deaths in the nation due to COVID-19.

Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said in a news segment on CNN today, “It does seem bleak. We are in the middle of sort of the toughest days of the pandemic right now. The next four, six weeks are going to be very, very difficult.”

He said he thought things would turn around “if we can start getting people vaccinated, and if we can keep the kind of lid on high levels of infection that are spreading in many parts of the country.”

Dr. Jha said he was frustrated about the roll out of the vaccines. He said he assumed that “when the administration said 20 million people will be vaccinated by the end of December, that 20 million people would be vaccinated. Right now, what they’re saying is they’ve allocated 20 million doses for early January. But the problem has been that the administration has essentially decided that their job essentially ends when the vaccine gets to the state, and there’s nothing more to do.” He said there are unnecessary delays “because the federal government has made no real effort to get the vaccination infrastructure.”

He said the good news is that the bill passed by Congress and signed by the President provides money for the states to distribute and administer vaccines in their states.

Governor JB Pritzker’s office has reported there were about 108,000 vaccinations using Pfizer’s vaccine and 161,000 using Moderna’s through Monday. An additional 126,211 doses have been set aside for vaccinations at long-term care facilities. These numbers do not include shipments made directly to Chicago.

Additional deliveries are expected next week.


EVANSTON:  22 New COVID-19 Cases Today

There were 22 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 13.9.  This is down from 29.3 on Dec. 23. For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.

There has been a total of 3,081 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 349 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. [1]

In the last seven days, there was a total of 97 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 129 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven-day period. This is down from 273 for the prior week. The State’s seven-day target is 50 per 100,000.

The test positivity rate for new cases in the last seven days is 2.9%. The rate has dropped from 8.2% on Dec. 8.

No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.  The number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at 94.

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. 14 and Dec. 20, there were 28 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of faculty, 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 1,364 new COVID-19 cases today, and 1,177 in Chicago, for a total of 2,541.

 In the State, there were 7,374 new cases reported today, which is the highest number in 11 days.

Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 5,330. This broke a streak in which the seven-day average declined every day for 19 days. Today’s number is down from an all-time high of 12,380 on Nov. 17, and also down from the seven-day average of 6,778 one week ago on Dec. 23. While the trend has been declining, 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 high in the spring. The seven-day average today is still more than double 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. Two leading research groups say there is “accelerated spread” if the number is over 70. [3]

In the seven days ending Dec. 30, the number of new cases per 100,000 people were as follows for the areas indicated:

       Suburban Cook County: 273 (compared to 357 on Dec. 23)

       Chicago:  239 (compared to 324 on Dec. 23)

       Illinois:  294 (compared to 375 on Dec. 23)

For each area, the number of new cases per 100,000 on Dec. 30 is significantly lower than they were on Dec. 23, but they are each significantly higher than the benchmarks.  [4]

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 are as follows:

       Suburban Cook County:  8.9% (as of Dec. 29)

       Chicago:  8.7% (as of Dec. 29)

       Illinois:  8.9% (as of Dec. 29)

Each positivity rate is higher than the targets. An accompanying chart highlights the rates.

Fourth, Hospital Admissions and Surge Capacity. There were 2,088 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of midnight on Dec. 29. By way of comparison, hospitalizations in the regions were 2,836 on Dec. 1.

IDPH reported that, as of Dec. 29, Suburban Cook County had a surplus capacity of 21% of medical/surgical beds and 18% of ICU beds; and Chicago has a surplus capacity of 21% of medical/surgical beds and 24% of ICU beds. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity.

On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 4,244 as of midnight on Dec. 29. They are down from an all-time high of 6,171 on Nov. 23. A chart in the chart box shows the trend.

The number of patients using ICU beds is 882, down from 1,195 on Dec. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 496 down from 724 on Dec.  1.

Deaths: On a Statewide basis, there were 198 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 16,024.

For the last seven days, the number of deaths in the State were 96, 156, 66, 104, 105, 106, and 198 today. The seven-day average is 119.  For purposes of comparison, the seven-day average was 153 on Dec. 7.



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%.


Key Metrics to Open D65 Schools for In-Person Learning

Key Metrics to Open D65 Schools for In-Person Learning

School District 65 has posted on its website the metrics it plans to use in deciding whether to open it schools. The RoundTable discussed the metrics in an article available here.

District 65 says it will not open the schools if there are “Three consecutive days averaging greater than or equal to 8% positivity rate (7 day rolling average)” in Suburban Cook County (Region 10) or the there is a “Positivity rate exceeding 3% in attendance-area zip codes.”

There are three populated zip codes that are entirely within the boundaries of District 65: 60201, 60202 and 60203. In addition, zip code 60076 is partially within the boundaries of District 65. Two of the populated zip codes, 60201 and 60202, make up the lion’s share of District 65. These two zip codes are the zip codes for the populated areas of the City of Evanston.

Today, the test positivity rate for cases in Evanston is 2.9%. The test positivity rate for positive tests for Suburban Cook County was 9.1% as of Dec. 27, the most recent data posted by IDPH.


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...