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Update at 6 a.m., Sept. 24. After this article was posted, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky overruled one part of the CDC advisory panel’s recommendation (summarized in the article below) and endorsed boosters of the Pfizer vaccine for health care workers and others whose jobs put them at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine, to be administered at least six months after the second dose of the initial vaccine. The FDA approved the booster for:

  • individuals 65 years of age and older;
  • individuals 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19; and 
  • individuals 18 through 64 years of age whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19.

The authorization applies only to the Pfizer vaccine. 

In a prepared statement, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., said the authorization allowed for “a booster dose in certain populations such as health care workers, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others.”

Yet, today the scientific advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not recommend that essential workers get the booster.

Today, the CDC’s scientific advisers unanimously decided to recommend a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine for people 65 and older and for residents of long-term care facilities. A wide majority of the advisers also decided to recommend that the booster be given to people between 50 and 64 who have medical conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID-19. A majority of the panel also decided to recommend boosters for people between 18 and 49 who have underlying medical conditions, based on an individual assessment with their medical doctor.

The panel of advisers, however, refused to recommend that the booster be administered to people at risk of contracting COVID-19 because of their occupations, such as health care workers, teachers, grocery workers, and others who have been viewed as essential workers.

The Director of the CDC has not yet accepted the recommendations of the advisory panel.

The CDC committee’s recommendations are not binding, and state officials may implement their own criteria.

Recent Trends

New Cases: The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois decreased from 218 to 174 in the week ending Sept. 23, a 20% decrease from the week ending Sept. 16. The number of new cases per week in the State are now about 7.5 times higher than they were on June 10, the day before the State moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan. 

The above chart illustrates that the trends of new cases per week are also lower in suburban Cook County and Chicago, but they are higher in Evanston. The number of new cases per 100,000 for Evanston, suburban Cook County, Chicago and Illinois is: Evanston – 90; suburban Cook County – 129; Chicago – 108; and Illinois – 174.

Under CDC guidelines, Evanston is considered to be an area with “substantial transmission.” Suburban Cook County, Chicago and Illinois are considered to be areas of “high transmission.” See footnote 2.

Test Positivity Rates: The seven-day test-positivity rates in each region are: Evanston – 2.1%; suburban Cook County – 3.1%; Chicago – 3.0%; and Illinois – 3.8%. The test positivity rates in suburban Cook County, Chicago and Illinois are each slightly down from one week ago. The rate for Evanston is slightly up. See footnotes 2 and 3.

Vaccinations: The number of people in the State who are vaccinated continues to grow, but at a very slow pace. As of Sept. 23, 79.1% of Illinois residents 12 and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, up from 78.5% on Sept. 16; and 61.7% were fully vaccinated, compared to 61.1% on Sept. 16. These percentages include people who reside in Illinois and have been vaccinated in Illinois or in other states. The seven-day average for vaccinations is 18,900, down from 20,648 one week ago.  (Source: CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health.)

As of Sept. 23, 87.6% of Evanston residents 12 and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 80.9% were fully vaccinated. There is a fraction of a percentage increase in each number from the prior week. (Source: City of Evanston.)

Delta Variant: According to data published by IDPH, in the last seven days, there were 3,040 new cases of the Delta variant in Illinois, comprising about 13.7% of the total new cases in the State in that same period. Why this percentage is so much lower than the national level is not clear.

Evanston – COVID

Evanston reported 17 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today, compared to 11 yesterday, and 11 on Tuesday.    

The numbers are higher than one week ago. There has been a total of 67 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the last seven days, compared to 48 in the prior seven days.

The seven-day test positivity rate today is 2.1%, compared to 1.4% one week ago.

There has been a total of 5,148 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 79 of which are active.

No Evanstonian has died from COVID-19 since Sept. 14. The total number of Evanston deaths due to COVID-19 is 121.

Cases at D65 and ETHS. According to data posted on School District 65’s website, for the period Sept. 17 to 21, there were four new COVID-19 cases of students at District 65, and 44 students were in quarantine. The data does not indicate if the students were infected at the schools.

According to data posted on ETHS’s website, for the week ending Sept. 17, there was one new COVID-19 case of a student at ETHS and two students were in quarantine. For staff, there were two new cases, and two in quarantine The data does not indicate if the students were infected at the schools.

Impact of Northwestern University. The most recent data on Northwestern University’s website reports that between Sept. 17 and Sept. 23, there were 81 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of an NU faculty member, staff member or student. If the faculty member, staff member or student resides in Evanston, the case or cases would be included in the City’s numbers.  

FOOTNOTES

1/ The State moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan on June 11. As of July 1, the RoundTable has been covering COVID-19 metrics once a week on Thursdays.  Specifically, the RoundTable is presenting two charts showing: 1) the trends in the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in two recent seven-day periods for Evanston, Chicago, Suburban Cook County, and the State. The chart also shows the weekly numbers of new cases for each region as of June 10 as a baseline to gauge whether cases are going up since the move to Phase 5; and 2) the most recent test positivity rates for these areas.  

As discussed in footnote 3 below, the CDC recommends that these two measures be used to determine the level of risk of transmission.  If we see a surge in new cases or in the test positivity rates, we will consider covering additional metrics.

We will also report the most recent percentages of vaccinated people, 12 years and older, in Evanston and Illinois.

2/ In late July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and Evanston’s Health & Human Services Dept. each adopted recommendations that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, wear a mask in a public indoor setting in areas with “substantial” and “high transmission” of new COVID-19 cases. Areas of substantial transmission are considered to be those with between 50 and 99 cases per 100,000 people over a 7-day period. Areas of high transmission are considered to be those with more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a 7-day period.

They also recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. 

3/ 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 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 COVID tests during the last seven days that were positive. The CDC provides a chart to assess whether the risk of transmission is low, moderate, substantial, or high. If the two indicators suggest different levels of risk, CDC says the higher level of risk should be used. The table below, reprinted from CDC’s report, provides CDC’s Indicators and Thresholds for Community Transmission of COVID-219.

CDC’s guidelines are available here: Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention | CDC

 

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