As we approach the beginning of the holiday season and the final stretch of 2021, I wanted to take a moment to provide you with an update on the COVID-19 situation in Evanston and share public health recommendations for safer celebrations.
I’ve heard that cases are increasing in Illinois and across the country. What are the current trends in Evanston?
Since late July, Evanston’s seven-day moving average of daily confirmed cases has bounced between about 5 and 15 new cases per day, with no substantial peaks or valleys. Cases are currently increasing in Illinois — and Evanston is not immune to that trend — so we must all continue to take preventive measures to reduce the spread. Still, there are a few reasons to be optimistic:
- One year ago, Evanston’s seven-day moving average of confirmed daily cases was 35. Today, it’s 8.
- One year ago, there were 180 local COVID-19 hospitalizations. Today, there are 33.
- Most importantly, one year ago, 0 percent of Evanston residents were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Today, 78 percent of residents 5 years and older are fully vaccinated, with more — especially our youth — getting the vaccine every day.
Although we continue to see new COVID-19 cases most days, hospitalizations have remained far below pandemic peaks, and vaccinations continue to be highly effective in preventing severe illness (or worse) from this disease. Which leads to the next question…
What is the current status of Evanston’s vaccination campaign?
The city is currently focusing its efforts on vaccinating:
- Children ages 5 to 11, who were recently authorized to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. As of Monday, approximately 39 percent of Evanston children 5-11 received their first dose.
- Individuals 18 years and older who are eligible for booster doses. Booster doses help increase protection for eligible individuals, as early data show that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infections may decrease over time.
New: Just today, the FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna booster shots for all adults 18 years and older. Following this decision, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is now recommending booster shots to anyone 18 years and older six months after receiving their second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Get your shot: Whether you’re eligible for a booster dose, or you’re seeking a first dose for you or your child, visit vaccines.gov to find a vaccination appointment near you.
You can also complete the City’s Vaccine Booster Survey if you wish to receive the vaccine from the Evanston Health & Human Services Department, or contact your healthcare provider to inquire about scheduling a vaccination appointment.
Are city staff required to be vaccinated?
I’m very pleased to announce that the city has reached agreements with all four of its employee unions regarding the city’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, which requires all staff to be fully vaccinated or submit weekly negative test results to the City’s Health & Human Services Department. City staff have been central to our community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while also ensuring the continuity of critical services that we all depend on. I greatly appreciate them for taking this additional step to make our community safer.
With all the progress on vaccines, when will we be able to stop wearing masks in indoor public spaces?
Masks continue to be required for all individuals two years of age and older regardless of vaccination status in all indoor public settings in Evanston and throughout Illinois. Governor Pritzker and the IDPH continue to monitor statewide metrics closely, but with cases and hospitalizations increasing in Illinois, it’s likely the mask mandate will be in place at least through the holiday season.
Is it safe to gather with family and friends over the holidays? If so, what precautions should we take?
Everything we do has an element of risk, and that includes gathering with friends and family, but we can greatly reduce the risk of social gatherings if all guests are vaccinated, and if we follow a few holiday safety guidelines, including:
- Get vaccinated and encourage your friends and family members to do the same. This is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others. If you’re eligible for a booster shot, get it before traveling or attending gatherings.
- Get tested for COVID-19 if you work in a high-risk setting or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. View the IDPH directory of testing locations.
- Host gatherings outdoors, when possible. Make sure indoor spaces are well ventilated and can accommodate social distancing.
- Wear a tight-fitting face covering in indoor public spaces, even if you’re fully vaccinated. Consider wearing a face covering at holiday gatherings, too, especially if not all guests are vaccinated.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Stay home if you’re sick!
With COVID-19 still present, every layer of protection we add (vaccination, ventilation, masking, distancing, hygiene) will help reduce its spread.
I’m thankful that our community has taken this pandemic seriously since day one, and that we’ve worked together to support one another and keep each other safe. Whatever your plans, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving and a safe and healthy holiday season.
Mayor, City of Evanston