In the last three days, the average number of new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians was 10.6, and the test positivity rate dropped to 1.3%. In that period, though, there were four more deaths of Evanstonians due to the virus.
Suburban Cook County Moves to Tier 2
Gov. JB Pritzker’s Office announced today that Suburban Cook County was moving from the Tier 3 level of mitigations to Tier 2. As of today, Suburban Cook County met all the criteria to move to Tier 2, except it did not have more than 20% capacity for medical/surgical beds for three consecutive days. The capacity for medical/surgical beds today, however, reached 20%.
In measuring bed capacity, IDPH only included the number of beds that hospitals said they could adequately staff to care for COVID-19 patients. Governor Pritzker’s Office said today that the State was entering into contracts to increase hospital staffing. The added hospital staffing will enable hospitals to increase the number of beds they can staff to care for COVID-19 patients.
“Hospital leaders have made clear the importance of staffing in their continued response to this pandemic and conveyed that staffing contracts will be extraordinarily valuable in their ability to meet the needs of their communities,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “We are pleased to see most of our Regions move out of Tier 3 mitigations with this change, and it is critical that we maintain this progress. With new variants of COVID-19 spreading, it is more important than ever to follow the public health guidance that keeps people safe: wea masks and watch your distance.”
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.
As of last night, 781,150 doses of vaccine were delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, approximately 268,525 doses have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities.
This brings the total Illinois doses to 1,049,675. IDPH is currently reporting a total of 487,040 vaccines administered, including 66,679 for long-term care facilities.
EVANSTON: 12 New COVID-19 Cases Today
There were 12 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today. On Saturday there were 9 new cases, and there were 11 yesterday.
The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 17.4. This is down from 24.9 on Jan. 11. For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.
There has been a total of 3,457 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 267 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend. 
In the last seven days, there was a total of 122 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. That equates to about 162 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven-day period. This is down from 231 for the week ending Jan. 11. The State’s seven-day target is 50 per 100,000.
The test positivity rate for new cases in the last seven days is 1.3%. The rate is down from 3.7% on Jan. 1. In the last seven days, 9,402 COVID-19 tests have been administered to residents of Evanston. Many of these tests been administered to NU students. NU has a test positivity rate of 0.4%, so the high number of tests being administered to NU students, coupled with their very low test positivity rate is likely bringing down Evanston’s test positivity rate.
Four Evanstonan residents died due to COVID-19 in the last three days. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is now 104.
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. 11 and 17, there were 39 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. 
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 declined for Suburban Cook County, Chicago and the State.
In Suburban Cook County, there were 657 new COVID-19 cases today. The seven-day average is 5,669 compared to 6,949 for the week ending Jan. 11, or a 16% decrease from week to week.
The number of new cases in Chicago was 595. The seven-day average is 1,056, compared to 1,297 for the week ending Jan. 11, or a 19% decrease.
In the State, there were 3,385 new cases reported today.
Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 5,669 compared to 6,949 for the week ending Jan. 11, or an 18% 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. 
In the seven days ending Jan. 18, the number of new cases per 100,000 people were as follows for the areas indicated:
– Suburban Cook County: 303 (compared to 352 on Jan. 11)
– Chicago: 273 (compared to 335 on Jan. 11)
– Illinois: 313 (compared to 384 on Jan. 11)
For each area, the number of weekly new cases per 100,000 on Jan. 18 is lower than they were on Jan. 11. 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: 8.6% (as of Jan. 15)
– Chicago: 8.6% (as of Jan. 15)
– 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 1,675 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Suburban Cook County and Chicago as of midnight on Jan. 17. By way of comparison, hospitalizations in these regions were 2,836 on Dec. 1.
IDPH reported that, as of Jan. 17, Suburban Cook County had a surplus capacity of 20% of medical/surgical beds and 22% of ICU beds; and Chicago had a surplus capacity of 18% of medical/surgical beds and 29% of ICU beds. IDPH’s target is 20% surplus capacity.
On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 3,345 as of midnight on Jan. 17. It is down from an all-time high of 6,171 on Nov. 23. An accompanying shows the trend.
The number of patients using ICU beds is 705, down from 1,195 on Dec. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 392, down from 724 on Dec. 1.
Deaths: On a Statewide basis, there were 50 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 18,258.
For the last seven days, the number of deaths in the State were 117, 97, 88, 123, 130, 28, and 50 today. The seven-day average is 90. 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%.