Evanston reported its second day of new COVID-19 cases in the high 30s, and there were two additional deaths of Evanstonians due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The State’s seven-day average of new cases increased for the eleventh day in a row, but the number of hospitalizations in the State has remained under 4,000 for a week, and today’s number was the lowest in two months. The number of deaths due to Covid-19 was 142 in the last four days.
A Demand for Vaccines
Governor JB Pritzker and the Governors of California, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin, sent a letter today, Jan. 8, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, demanding that the federal government begin distributing reserved COVID-19 vaccines to states immediately.
The letter states in part, “According to publicly reported information, the federal government currently has upwards of 50% of currently produced vaccines held back by the administration for reasons unknown. While some of these life-saving vaccines are sitting in Pfizer freezers, our nation is losing 2,661 Americans each day, according to the latest seven-day average. The failure to distribute these doses to states who request them is unconscionable and unacceptable. We demand that the federal government begin distributing these reserved doses to states immediately.”
Gov. Pritzker said in a prepared statement, “In each of our states, vaccine delivery has been much slower than we anticipated, so it is imperative that the federal government distribute the vaccines it is holding on reserve. These vaccines will save millions of Americans from the unnecessary danger and hardship of contracting COVID-19.”
State Grants to Small Businesses
Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced today that more than $275 million in nearly 9,000 emergency assistance grants have been made to small businesses in more than 600 cities and towns Statewide through the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program. Through this program grants have been made available to a wide range of small businesses, with a focus on the industries and communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, and with the majority of funding going to smaller and minority-owned businesses, said the Governor’s office in a prepared statement.
A full list of awards made can be found on DCEO’s website.
EVANSTON: 39 New COVID-19 Cases Today
There were 39 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today.
The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 23.1. This is up from 16.7 on Jan. 1. For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.
There has been a total of 3,286 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 350 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. 
In the last seven days, there was a total of 162 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 215 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven-day period. This is up from 156 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 2.95%. The rate is down from 3.7% on Jan. 1.
Two Evanstonians died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is now 98.
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. 
Northwestern University has posted data on its website reporting that between Jan. 1 and 7, there were 41 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of faculty (4) staff (7), non-undergraduate students (24), and undergraduate students (6). 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. 
KEY METRICS FOR SUBURBAN COOK COUNTY, CHICAGO, AND ILLINOIS
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. The seven-day averages of new cases have increased for Suburban Cook County, Chicago and the State.
In Suburban Cook County, there were 1,733 new COVID-19 cases today. The seven-day average is 1,230, compared to 998 for the week ending Jan. 1, or a 23% increase from week to week.
The number of new cases in Chicago was 1,766. The seven-day average is 1,240, compared to 999 for the week ending Jan. 1, or a 24% increase.
In the State, there were 9,277 new cases reported today, which is the seventh day in a row that the number of cases has increased.
Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 6,676, compared to 5,579 for the week ending Jan. 1, or an 18% increase.
The all-time high seven-day average for the State is 12,380 on Nov. 17. While the seven-day average today is about half that number, the number today is still very high.
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. 
In the seven days ending Jan. 8, the number of new cases per 100,000 people were as follows for the areas indicated:
– Suburban Cook County: 349 (compared to 283 on Jan. 1)
– Chicago: 321 (compared to 258 on Jan. 1)
– Illinois: 369 (compared to 314 on Jan. 1)
For each area, the number of weekly new cases per 100,000 on Jan. 5 is higher than they were on Jan. 1. The numbers of new cases are each significantly higher than the benchmarks. 
Third, a Test Positivity Rate. IDPH’s target is that the test positivity rate be 5% or less, although Harvard Global Health Initiative (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. 
The most recent seven-day test positivity rates are as follows:
– Suburban Cook County: 10.6% (as of Jan. 5)
– Chicago: 10.5% (as of Jan. 5)
– Illinois: 9.5% (as of Jan. 7)
Each positivity rate is higher than the targets. An accompanying chart highlights the rates.
Fourth, Hospital Admissions and Surge Capacity. There were 1,870 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of midnight on Jan. 7. By way of comparison, hospitalizations in these regions were 2,836 on Dec. 1.
IDPH reported that, as of Jan. 7, Suburban Cook County had a surplus capacity of 16% of medical/surgical beds and 20% of ICU beds; and Chicago had a surplus capacity of 16% of medical/surgical beds and 23% of ICU beds. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity.
On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 3,777 as of midnight on Jan. 7. This is the lowest number in two months. It is 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 780, down from 1,195 on Dec. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 422, down from 724 on Dec. 1.
Deaths: On a Statewide basis, there were 126 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 17,395.
For the last seven days, the number of deaths in the State were 29, 81, 79, 124, 138, 177, and 126 today. The seven-day average is 107. 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.”
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%.