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Today, Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced a framework for Illinois to advance to Phase 5 of the State’s Restore Illinois Plan, a post-pandemic normalcy described here.
In addition, Gov. Pritzker announced that all Illinois residents age 16+ will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 12.
Metrics to the New “Normal”
Under the plan to advance to Phase 5, there will be a “Bridge Phase,” said the Governor. To advance into the Bridge Phase, the entire State must reach a 70% first dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and over, maintain a 20% ICU bed availability rate and hold steady on hospitalizations due to COVID-19, on the mortality rate, and the case rate over a 28-day monitoring period.
To advance to Phase 5, the State must reach a 50% vaccination rate for residents age 16 and over and meet the same metrics and rates required to enter the transition phase, over an additional 28-day period.
The State’s mask mandate will continue in accordance with current CDC guidance. Social distancing is still encouraged.
“It’s time to begin to cautiously move toward normalcy,” said Gov. Pritzker, “and it’s imperative that we do so in a way that maintains all the progress we’ve made to date. With projections from the Biden Administration indicating that weekly vaccine deliveries to Illinois will surpass one million doses in April, it is fully in our power to turn the page on this dark and devastating chapter even as we race a tough clock: the new variants.”
“Today’s announcement provides what retailers across Illinois have been seeking: a clear path forward to a full re-opening that will help stem the devastation the pandemic has inflicted on the industry,” said Rob Karr, President and CEO, Illinois Retail Merchants Association. “We are hopeful the pathway toward a full re-opening will be a short one.”
“While we still have a long way to go, today’s announcement is an important step towards recovery,” said Sam Toia, President and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association. “We have urged Governor Pritzker to set a path to allow for expanded events with extensive safety measures in place, and this pragmatic approach to loosening restrictions will greatly enhance business opportunities for restaurants, event companies, conventions, and culinary tourism — all of which are critical to Illinois’ economic engine.”
In an update to current Phase 4 mitigations and the capacity limits of the bridge to Phase 5, individuals with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) 1-3 days prior to an event or outing do not count against capacity limits.
Risk of Community Spread
Two of the charts in the above chart box track: 1) the total number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in Evanston, Suburban Cook County, Chicago and the State, and 2) the percentage of tests for COVID-19 that were returned positive in the last 7 days.
For total cases in the last 7 days per 100,000 people, IDPH uses a target of 50 cases. CDC says between 10 and 49 cases represents a “moderate” risk of transmission.
For test positivity in the last 7 days, IDPH uses a target of 5%. CDC says between 5% and 7.9% represents a “moderate” risk of transmission. [1, 2 and 3]
Evanston – COVID
The City reported 4 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today, the same as yesterday.
The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 5.3, down from the seven-day average of 7.6 on March 11.
In the last seven days, there was a total of 37 new COVID-19 cases of Evanstonians. The 37 new cases equate to about 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven-day period.
The case positivity rate over the last seven days is 0.6%.
There has been a total of 4,051 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 144 of which are active.
No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at 114.
Impact of Northwestern University. Northwestern University has posted data on its website reporting that between March11 and March 17 there were 17 new confirmed COVID-19 cases. The number includes people who live outside of Evanston. The City says it does not know how many of these cases are people who live in Evanston. 
Illinois – COVID
In the State, there were 2,325 new COVID-19 cases reported today, up from 1,655 yesterday.
Statewide, the average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 1,669. The seven-day average one week ago on March 11 was 1,593, so today’s number is up by 5%.
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 March 18, the number of new cases per 100,000 people in the State was 92, up from 88 one week ago.
The seven-day case positivity rate for the State today is 2.4% and the test positivity rate is 2.7%.
On a Statewide basis, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 was 1,120 as of midnight on March 17. This is down from an all-time high of 6,171 on Nov. 23.
The number of patients using ICU beds is 252, down from 1,195 on Dec. 1. The number of patients on ventilators is 100, down from 724 on Dec. 1.
On a Statewide basis, there were 34 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the total to 21,022.
For the last seven days, the numbers of deaths in the State are 39, 23, 19, 12, 19, 17, and 34 today. The seven-day average is 23.
Variants in Illinois
IDPH is reporting a total of 133 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants in the State: 125 are the variant first discovered in the UK; 3 are the variant discovered in South Africa, and 5 are the variant discovered in Brazil.
Vaccinations in the State
A total of 5,587,315 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 4,375,171 doses of vaccines have been administered.
1/ On Feb. 12, the CDC issued a “K-12 School Operational Strategy.” As part of that strategy, the report says, “CDC recommends the use of two measures of community burden to determine the level of risk of transmission: 1) the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days; and 2) the percentage of nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), including RT-PCR tests that are positive during the last 7 days. The two measures of community burden should be used to assess the incidence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the surrounding community (e.g., county) and not in the schools themselves.” The CDC provides a chart to assess whether the risk of transmission is low, moderate, substantial, or high. The CDC recommends different types of mitigations depending on the risk level. If the two indicators suggest different levels of risk, the mitigations recommended in the higher level of risk should be implemented, says CDC. The table below, reprinted from CDC’s report, provides CDC’s Indicators and Thresholds for Community Transmission of COVID-219.
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/ The Test Positivity Rate. In addition, 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%.
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/ 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.