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Today, December 2, President Joe Biden announced a nine-point plan to continue to fight the COVID-19 virus “without shutting down our schools and businesses.” The plan was prepared after the World Health Organization (WHO) named the Omicron variant as a “Variant of Concern” last week.

The plan includes:

  1. “Boosters for all adults
  2. “Vaccinations to protect our kids and keep our schools open
  3. “Expanding free at-home testing for Americans
  4. “Stronger public health protocols for safe international travel
  5. “Protections in workplaces to keep our economy open
  6. “Rapid response teams to help battle rising cases
  7. “Supplying treatment pills to help prevent hospitalizations and death
  8. “Continued commitment to global vaccination efforts
  9. “Steps to ensure we are prepared for all scenarios.”

Last week the President restricted travel from seven countries in southern Africa, where the variant was first discovered, to give the U.S. time to learn more about the variant and prepare a response. In a prepared statement the Biden administration said, “Today’s actions will ensure we are using these tools as effectively as possible to protect the American people against this variant and to continue to battle the Delta variant during the winter months when viruses tend to thrive. These actions will help keep our economy growing and keep Americans safe from severe COVID-19.”

Two states announced yesterday and today that the Omicron variant has been discovered within their borders.  

Some key parts of the plan call for establishing hundreds of family vaccination sites easily accessible to families, boosters for all adults, new testing requirements for international travelers and free at-home tests that will be covered by private insurers or available at community health centers.

Trends of New Cases

Illinois: The number of new cases in Illinois jumped to 11,524 on December 2, about double that reported yesterday. The seven-day average of new cases in Illinois is 5,313, up from 4,598 one week ago. An accompanying chart shows the upward trend since October 28.  

Evanston: Evanston reported 27 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents today, Dec. 2, 24 on Wednesday and 16 on Tuesday.

There was a total of 103 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending December 2, compared to 81 new cases in the week ending November 25. The accompanying chart shows the trend.

There has been a total of 5,822 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 117 of which are active.

One Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 on December 1. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is now reported at 125.  

Impact of Northwestern University. The most recent data on Northwestern University’s website reports that between November 19 and 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. The data is one week old, and will be updated tomorrow.

The Risk Level of Community Spread

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois increased from 256 in the seven days ending November 25 to 293 for the seven days ending December 2. The number of new cases per week in the State is now about 12.7 times higher than it was on June 10, the day before the State moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan. 

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston is 139. The number per 100,000 for all of Cook County is 176.8.

Test Positivity Rates: The seven-day test-positivity rate in Illinois grew from 4.1% on November 25 to 5.7% on December 2. The rate for all of Cook County is 4.3%; for Evanston it is 1.43%.

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

Vaccinations

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that as of December 2, 73.9% of Illinois residents who are 5 and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 65.7% 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 December 2, 90% of Evanston residents 5 and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 78.9% were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston.)

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 Department 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

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...

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