Today, Gov. JB Pritzker announced that three Regions in the State met the metrics to move from the Tier 3 mitigations to Tier 2, but Region 10, Suburban Cook County, is not one of them.

According to IDPH, the three metrics that must be met to move from Tier 3 to Tier 2 are:

  •          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; and
  •          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 met all the criteria except that it did not have more than 20% capacity for medical/surgical beds for three consecutive days. The capacity for medical/surgical beds today was 17.4%. It has not been more than 20% for 10 days.

Gov. Pritzker said “some examples of loosened mitigations in Tier 2 include the return of group fitness classes, return of lower-risk youth and recreational sports, and the reopening of cultural institutions like museums at 25% capacity.”

Indoor service at bars and restaurants is not permitted in Tier 2.

To move from Tier 2 to Tier 1, a Region must meet the same criteria except the test positivity target is 8%, rather than 12%, and the number of hospitalizations must be stable, rather than decreasing.

Under some relaxed rules, if a Region moves from Tier 2 to Tier 1, a limited reopening of bars and restaurants will be allowed. Gov. Pritzker said, “Any Regions that meet the criteria for Tier 1 of our resurgence mitigations will be able to allow restaurants and bars that serve food to operate indoors at the lesser of 25 people or 25% capacity per room with tables of no more than four people.”

Gov. Pritzker added, “I want to stress that it’s incredibly important for Illinoisans to not let their guard down. We have now formally identified the first Illinois case of the more contagious British variant. And on top of that there are new variants from Japan, South Africa, Nigeria, and Brazil, that we also know a little bit about.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said, “I want to remind people that, although we have no evidence that this new variant causes more severe disease or more death, early studies do show that this variant spreads easier and more quickly. So, if we do not continue to wear our masks, watch our distance, and avoid gatherings, this new variant could sweep across the State as it swept across the U.K. And that would lead us back to a place that we don’t want to go.”

Gov. Pritzker said he hoped the vaccines, coupled with these safety precautions, would help each Region to move to lower tiers of mitigations and help open up the economy and schools.

Gov. Pritzker also announced that, despite receiving a lower number of doses of vaccines than promised, the State planned to begin vaccinations of people who fall into Phase 1b on Jan.25. That group includes people who are over the age of 65 and front-line essential workers. When Phase 1b opens, Gov. Pritzker said, the administration will launch a website with information about where people may go to get a vaccination.

President Elect Joe Biden announced a $1.9 trillion rescue package yesterday. About $400 billion would go toward fighting COVID-19 through a ramped up national vaccination program; expanding testing to cover the purchase of rapid tests and expand lab capacity to assist school districts with testing; providing funding for schools that could be used to reduce class sizes, improve ventilation, modify spaces for social distancing; providing funding for 100,000 health care workers to assist in vaccination outreach and contact tracing; providing for health services in underserved populations; and providing emergency paid leave for parents struggling with child care. The Biden team’s summary is available here.

EVANSTON: 21 New COVID-19 Cases Today

There were 21 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 19.9.  This is down from 23.1 on Jan. 8. For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.

There has been a total of 3,425 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 296 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. [1]

In the last seven days, there was a total of 139 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 181 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven-day period. This is down from 215 for the week ending Jan. 8. The State’s seven-day target is 50 per 100,000.

The test positivity rate for new cases in the last seven days is 1.5%. The rate is down from 3.7% on Jan. 1.  In the last seven days, 9,302 COVID-19 tests have been administered to residents of Evanston, which is a record high for the entire pandemic period. Many of these tests have been administered to NU students.

No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.  The number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at 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. 8 and 14, there were 51 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of faculty (1), staff (7), non-undergrad students (11), and undergrad students (32). 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 declined for Suburban Cook County, Chicago and the State.

 In Suburban Cook County, there were 1,346 new COVID-19 cases today. The seven-day average is 1,096, compared to 1,230 for the week ending Jan. 8, or an 11% decrease from week to week.

The number of new cases in Chicago was 1,266. The seven-day average is 1,156, compared to 1,240 for the week ending Jan. 8, or a 7% decrease.

 In the State, there were 6,642 new cases reported today.

Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 5,929, compared to 6,676 for the week ending Jan. 8, or an 11% decrease.

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. 15, the number of new cases per 100,000 people were as follows for the areas indicated:

       Suburban Cook County: 311 (compared to 349 on Jan. 8)

       Chicago:  299 (compared to 321 on Jan. 8)

       Illinois:  328 (compared to 369 on Jan. 8)

For each area, the number of weekly new cases per 100,000 on Jan. 15 is lower than they were on Jan. 8. 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:  9.3% (as of Jan. 12)

       Chicago:  9.5% (as of Jan. 12)

       Illinois:  7.7% (as of Jan. 14)

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

Fourth, Hospital Admissions and Surge Capacity. There were 1,721 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of midnight on Jan. 14. By way of comparison, hospitalizations in these regions were 2,836 on Dec. 1.

IDPH reported that, as of Jan. 14, Suburban Cook County had a surplus capacity of 17% of medical/surgical beds and 21% of ICU beds; and Chicago had a surplus capacity of 16% 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 3,446 as of midnight on Jan. 14.  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 716, down from 1,195 on Dec. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 386, down from 724 on Dec.  1.

Deaths: On a Statewide basis, there were 123 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 18,049.

For the last seven days, the number of deaths in the State were 126, 100, 81, 58, 117, 97, 88, and 128 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:

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...