A new variant of COVID-19 that was first discovered in South Africa was recently reported to have infected two unrelated people in South Carolina. The variant is said to be fast-spreading. Pfizer and Moderna have reportedly said that their vaccines are less effective against this variant, and a third drug company reported yesterday, based on limited data from early trials, that its vaccine is less effective against the variant.
Last week, Governor JB Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, warned at a briefing about the risk of variants that have been discovered in the U.K, South Africa and other countries.
“The risk of a resurgence in Illinois, particularly with extremely contagious new variants is serious,” said Gov. Pritzker. “The CDC is already warning that the faster spreading UK variant could become the dominant strain in the United States in March. And a virus that’s more contagious, ultimately results in more case, more hospitalizations and more deaths.”
Dr. Ezike said, “Early studies have shown that the virus variant first detected in the United Kingdom spreads more quickly, and that could cause our case counts to skyrocket in a very short period of time. We’ve also heard of variants coming out of South Africa and yet another in Brazil, another in Nigeria, and we suspect that those variants identified will continue to increase.”
She urged everyone, “Please continue to wear your mask. Please continue to maintain six feet of distance. Please continue to avoid large gatherings and let’s get vaccinated when your turn is up.”
There were 5 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today, down from the 25 reported yesterday.
The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 13.9 up from 11.6 on Jan. 21. For purposes of comparison, on Oct. 12, the seven-day average was 5.6.
Today, the City reported a total of 521 tests, with an average of 1,258 tests per day in the last seven days. The high number of tests is likely due to testing of Northwestern University students.
There has been a total of 3,582 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 257 of which are active. An accompanying chart shows the trend.
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. IDPH’s target to control community spread is 50.
The case positivity rate over the last seven days is 1.1%.
No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at 105.
Impact of Northwestern University. Northwestern University has posted data on its website reporting that between Jan. 21 and 27, there were 36 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. 
In the State, there were 4,191 new COVID-19 cases reported today.
Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 4,019. This is the eighteenth day in a row that the seven-day average has declined. The seven-day average one week ago, on Jan. 21, was 4,807, so today’s number is a decrease of 16%.
Today’s seven-day average is down from an all-time high of 12,380 on Nov. 17. An accompanying chart shows the trend.
In the seven days ending Jan. 28, the number of new cases per 100,000 people in the State was 222. IDPH’s target is 50 new weekly cases per 100,000. [2, 3]
The seven-day case positivity rate for the State today is 4.3% and the test positivity rate is 5.5%. IDPH’s target to control community spread is 5%. 
An accompanying chart shows that the number of cases per 100,000 people has declined for the week ending compared to the prior week for Evanston, Suburban Cook County, Chicago, and Illinois. Another accompanying chart shows their test positivity rates, which are down from one week ago.
On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 2,802 as of midnight on Jan. 27. This is down from an all-time high of 6,171 on Nov. 23.
The number of patients using ICU beds is 567, down from 1,195 on Dec. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 292, down from 724 on Dec. 1.
On a Statewide basis, there were 103 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 19,067.
For the last seven days, the numbers of deaths in the State are 95, 96, 39, 49, 87, 81, and 103 today. The seven-day average is 79.
A total of 1,789,175 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago and long-term care facilities. IDPH is currently reporting that a total of 829,488 doses of vaccines have been administered.
1/ 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 several 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.
2/ 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.
3/ 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.
4/ 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.” 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.”
IDPH says 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%.