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At a briefing this afternoon, Gov. JB Pritzker reiterated that Regions that meet the metrics may begin to move from Tier 3 mitigations to Tier 2 or lower mitigations beginning on Jan. 15.

The Tier 3 mitigations, the most stringent of the surge mitigations, have been in effect across the entire State since November. These were imposed “in response to an exponential growth in COVID-19 infections statewide,” said Gov. Pritzker.

He said Illinois has been able to reduce the number hospitalizations and its positivity rate by more than one-third since Nov. 20 due the mitigations that were put in place before Thanksgiving. In contrast, he said, hospitalization rates have surged across the nation during the same period.

“That said,” Gov. Pritzker added, “Our success is relative and it’s precious. We still have more than twice as many COVID patients in the hospital Statewide than we did in the summer. And we’ve seen a recent fluctuation in our case rates and test positivity that has stalled that downward trajectory.

“By operating with consistent and meaningful mitigations throughout the holiday season, it’s my belief that Illinois has saved lives, brought down community risk, and set ourselves up to reduce these mitigations in a way that is safe and smart.”

Beginning on Jan. 15, Regions can begin to move from Tier 3 to Tiers 2 and 1, if they meet the metrics. In order to move from Tier 3 to Tier 2, a Region must meet three metrics:

       The test positivity rate must be below 12% for three consecutive days, as measured by a seven-day rolling average

        Hospital capacity must be higher than 20% for both medical surgical beds and ICU beds for three consecutive days, using a three-day rolling average.

       The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 must decline for seven out of 10 days, using a seven day average.

As of today, Suburban Cook County has not had more than 20% capacity for medical/surgical beds for three consecutive days, but it appears to meet the other requirements.


 Gov. Pritzker said approximately 587,900 doses of Pfizer and Madonna vaccines have been delivered to the State of Illinois. In addition, about 231,400 doses have been delivered directly for vaccinating staff and residents in long-term care facilities in the State. As of last night, approximately 334,939 of the vaccine doses were administered, he said.

“To be clear, Statewide, we have made significant progress in Phase 1a, and I appreciate the hard work of healthcare providers across the State to move as quickly as possible through this phase.”

He said some communities in the State have been able to substantially complete vaccinating their residents who fall into the Phase 1a group, and IDPH is allowing any local health department in that position to move into the early stages of vaccinating people in the Phase1b group. The State plans to announce later this week when Illinois will move into phase 1b on a Statewide basis.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Department of Public Health said, “The number of vaccine doses that providers receive in Illinois each week remains quite limited,” and the vaccination program will take time.

 “We know that moving out of the mitigation tiers will require us to continue to wear our masks, to continue to keep our distance, and to continue to avoid large gatherings. And now we can add vaccination to the list of things we should do,” Dr. Ezike said.


EVANSTON: 18 New COVID-19 Cases Today

There were 18 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 24.9.  This is up from 16.71 on Jan. 4. For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.

There has been a total of 3,335 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 360 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. [1]

In the last seven days, there was a total of 174 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 231 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven-day period. This is up from 150 in 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 2.0%. The rate is down from 3.7% on Jan. 1.  In the last seven days, 8,611 COVID-19 tests have been administered to residents of Evanston, a huge jump from all prior periods.

Two more Evanstonians died due to COVID-19 in the last 48 hours.  The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is now 100.

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 Jan. 4 and 10, there were 60 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. The seven-day averages of new cases have increased for Suburban Cook County, Chicago and the State.

 In Suburban Cook County, there were 824 new COVID-19 cases today. The seven-day average is 1,276, compared to 1,071 for the week ending Jan. 4, or a 19% increase from week to week.

The number of new cases in Chicago was 857. The seven-day average is 1,297, compared to 1,070 for the week ending Jan. 4, or a 21% increase.

 In the State, there were 4,776 new cases reported today.

Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 6,949, compared to 6,074 for the week ending Jan. 4, or a 14% 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. [3]

In the seven days ending Jan. 11, the number of new cases per 100,000 people were as follows for the areas indicated:

       Suburban Cook County: 362 (compared to 283 on Jan. 4)

       Chicago:  335 (compared to 276 on Jan. 4)

       Illinois:  384 (compared to 339 on Jan. 4)

For each area, the number of weekly new cases per 100,000 on Jan. 11 is higher than they were on Jan. 4. The numbers of new cases 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 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. [5]

The most recent seven-day test positivity rates are as follows:

       Suburban Cook County:  10.0% (as of Jan. 8)

       Chicago:  10.3% (as of Jan. 8)

       Illinois:  8.9% (as of Jan. 9)

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

Fourth, Hospital Admissions and Surge Capacity. There were 1,810 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of midnight on Jan. 10. By way of comparison, hospitalizations in these regions were 2,836 on Dec. 1.

IDPH reported that, as of Jan. 10, Suburban Cook County had a surplus capacity of 18% of medical/surgical beds and 23% of ICU beds; and Chicago had a surplus capacity of 17% of medical/surgical beds and 25% of ICU beds. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity.

On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 3,540 as of midnight on Jan. 10. This is the second lowest number in two months, the lowest being yesterday. 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 759, down from 1,195 on Dec. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 401, down from 724 on Dec.  1.

Deaths: On a Statewide basis, there were 53 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 17,627.

For the last seven days, the number of deaths in the State were 124, 138, 177, 126, 100, 81, and 53 today. The seven-day average is 114.  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%.


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...