The World Health Organization on November 26, declared that a new COVID-19 variant, called omicron, is a “variant of concern.” WHO said “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant as compared to other [variants of concern]. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces of South Africa.”

The omicron variant was first detected in Botswana, but cases have been identified in other countries.

The WHO said its technical advisory group is continuing to evaluate this variant and will communicate new findings to the public as needed.

The Biden administration announced that travel to the United States will be restricted from South Africa and other countries in South Africa. The travel ban does not affect citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. A number of other countries issued travel bans as well.

News about the new virus impacted the stock market, with the S&P falling 2.3%, the Dow falling 2.53% and the Nasdaq down 2.23%.

Meanwhile new COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Illinois. The accompanying chart illustrates that the seven-day average of new cases in Illinois has more than doubled in the last five weeks.

In that same five-week period, from October 27 through November 24, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports there have been 997 breakthrough hospitalizations and 220 breakthrough deaths in Illinois. IDPH says, “Breakthrough is defined as an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 at least 14 days after being fully vaccinated and did not test positive in the previous 45 days.”

Recent Trends

New Cases: The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois increased from 208 in the seven days ending November 18, to 256 in the seven days ending Nov. 24, a 23%% increase. (IDPH and Evanston have not reported COVID-19 data for November 25 or 26) The number of new cases per week in the state is now about 11 times higher than it was  on June 10, the day before Illinois moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan. 

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston increased from 73 in the seven days ending November 18 to 123 per 100,000 for the seven days ending November 24, a 68% increase.

Test Positivity Rates: The seven-day test-positivity rate in Illinois grew to 4.1% on November 24, and Evanston’s grew to 0.95%.

Under Centers for Disease Control guidelines, Illinois and Evanston are considered to be areas of “substantial transmission.” See footnote 2.

Vaccinations: IDPH reported that as of November 24, 79.8% of Illinois residents 12 and older had at least one dose of a vaccine and 72.9% were fully vaccinated. These percentages include people who reside in Illinois and have been vaccinated in Illinois or in other states. (Source: CDC and IDPH.)

As of November 24, 89%of Evanston residents 5 and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 78.2% were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston.)

Evanston – COVID

Evanston reported seven new COVID-19 cases November 22, 15 on November 23 and 16 on November 24.

There was a total of 91 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending November 24, compared to 54 new cases in the week ending November 18.

There has been a total of 5,713 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 77 of which are active.

The last Evanstonian died from COVID-19 on October 25. The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 121.

Impact of Northwestern University. The most recent data on Northwestern University’s website reports that between November 19 and November 25, there were 26 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/ Illinois 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

 Illinois Data

 

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  1. “Who” should be “WHO” for World Health Organization.
    “Fully vaccinated” appears to mean having had two vaccination shots. No mention is made of those who have had boosters, which Dr. Fauci says increases protection from Covid many times over the two shots administered months ago.