School District 65

Two hundred School District 65 students have tested positive for COVID-19 between Aug. 27 and Dec. 14. Of those 105, or 52.5%, tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three weeks. In addition, 13 staff members tested positive in the last three weeks.

The number of students and staff who tested positive in the seven days ending Nov. 30, Dec. 7, and Dec. 14 are Nov. 30:  13 students, 4 staff; Dec. 7:  45 students, 3 staff; and Dec. 14: 47 students, 6 staff.

The data does not reflect whether a students contracted the infection while at school.

On Dec. 10,  365 District 65 students were in quarantine. That number dropped to 286 on Dec. 14. Fully vaccinated students are not required to quarantine if they are symptom-free after being exposed to a person with COVID-19 unless they receive a positive COVID-19 test.

“Currently, COVID-19 is circulating in our community at levels higher than we have previously seen, and we are working closely with the health department to investigate any linkages in schools,” Melissa Messenger, District 65’s Director of Communications, told the RoundTable. “Our students, staff and families have done a tremendous job thus far of mitigating the spread of COVID-19, despite the increases in positive cases we are seeing.

“Most positive cases have been linked to out-of-school exposures; however, as of today we identified our first potential outbreak situation [three or more possible connected cases] in one of our classrooms. We are following guidance from the health department to increase mitigation measures and increase access to testing for students and staff that work in that classroom.”

Messenger added, “Despite the increase in cases, our current positivity rate in schools remains less than 1% and we are optimistic that with more students within the 5-11 age group getting vaccinated cases will continue to go down.”

(Update: On Dec. 17, District 65 reported there were 55 new COVID-19 cases at the District between Dec. 14 and Dec. 17, 49 of students and 6 of staff. A total of 466 students were quarantined.)


On Dec. 14, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon advised in an email to the ETHS community that 53 students or staff had tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 13 and 14. He did not specify how many of the new cases were students and how many were staff.

In the school year up to Dec. 12, ETHS reported a total of 52 new COVID-19 cases, so the cases reported on Dec. 13 and 14 doubled the total number of cases reported up through Dec. 12.

Cases have been increasing at ETHS since Thanksgiving. For the seven days ending Dec. 3, ETHS reported that eight students and one staff member tested positive. For the seven days ending Dec. 10, ETHS reported that 21 students and three staff members tested positive.

After the recent spike in cases, ETHS canceled the remaining theatre performances of YAMO scheduled for Dec. 16, 17 and 18. The school also postponed the girls and boys basketball games scheduled to take place at New Trier on Dec. 16.

“ETHS continues to consult with local and state health authorities. Based on current guidance, ETHS is not closing or shutting down,” Witherspoon said in his email. “Classes and activities remain in-person; a remote learning option is not available at ETHS.”

However in a Thursday afternoon email to students and families, Witherspoon announced that the remaining school days before winter break, from Dec. 17 to Dec. 23, will be conducted remotely due to an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Trends of New Cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois: The number of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois continues to mount. On Dec. 16, the number of new cases was 11,856. The seven-day average of new cases in Illinois is 8,011 up from 7,099 one week ago, a 13% increase. An accompanying chart shows the upward trend since Oct. 28.  

Two cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in Illinois.

Evanston: The city reported 111 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on Dec. 16, 63 new cases on Dec. 15, and 41 new cases on Dec. 14. The seven-day average jumped to 44.4.

There was a total of 311 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending Dec. 16, compared to 195 new cases in the week ending Dec. 9. The accompanying chart show the trend.

There has been a total of 6,328 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 181 of which are active.

No Evanstonian has died from COVID-19 since Dec. 1. The total number of Evanston 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 Dec. 10 and Dec. 16 there were 205 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.

Risk Level of Community Spread

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois increased from 392 in the seven days ending Dec. 9 to 442 for the seven days ending Dec. 16. The number of new cases per week in the state is now about 19 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 423. The number per 100,000 for Chicago is 350, and for suburban Cook County it is 406.  

Test Positivity Rates: The seven-day test-positivity rates are: Illinois, 5.9%; Chicago, 4.2%; suburban Cook County, 4.9%; and Evanston, 3.4%.

Under U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Illinois, Chicago, suburban Cook County and Evanston are considered to be areas of “high transmission.” (See footnote 2.) An area is regarded as “high transmission” if it has more than 100 new weekly cases per 100,000. Illinois, Chicago, suburban Cook County and Evanston are all way past that threshold.


IDPH reports that as of Dec. 16, 75.6% of Illinois residents five and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 67.5% were fully vaccinated. These percentages are increasing very slowly and include people who reside in Illinois and have been vaccinated in Illinois or in other states. (Source: CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health.)

As of Dec. 16, 91.7%of Evanston residents five and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 82.2% were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston.)


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 CDC, 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

Cook county   CDC COVID Data Tracker

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...