The number of Evanston’s new weekly COVID-19 cases is 11 times higher than the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold that indicates a high risk of transmission. The number seems to be driven by the high number of cases in the schools.
Trends of New Cases in Illinois and Evanston
Illinois: The number of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois continues to mount. On Dec. 23, the number of new cases in the state was 18,942. The seven-day average of new cases in Illinois is 12,573, up from 8,011 one week ago, a 57% increase. An accompanying chart shows the upward trend since Oct. 28.
Evanston: The city reported 160 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on Dec. 23, a record high.
There was a total of 839 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending Dec. 23, compared to 311 new cases in the week ending Dec. 16. The seven-day average leapt to 119.8 from 44.4 one week ago, a 170% increase in just one week. The accompanying chart show the trend.
There has been a total of 7,167 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 248 of which are active.
Three Evanstonians died due to COVID-19 in the last week. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is now reported at 128.
Impact of the schools
The number of new COVID-19 cases among students attending District 65, Evanston Township High School and Northwestern University are responsible in significant part for the surge in Evanston.
School District 65
Two hundred District 65 students tested positive for COVID-19 between Aug. 27 and Dec. 14. Between Dec. 14 and Dec. 23, an additional 231 students tested positive. In that same week, 33 staff members tested positive. The data does not reflect that the students of staff contracted the virus at a District 65 school.
On Dec. 23, there were 660 District 65 students in quarantine.
In light of the jump in cases, Superintendent Devon Horton announced on Dec. 22 that the three middle schools and 6th through 8th grades at King Arts would take an “adaptive pause” on Dec. 23 and not open for in-person learning. All schools were scheduled to close for the holidays beginning Dec. 24.
The chart below shows the number of District 65 students who tested positive for COVID-19 in the seven days preceding the date indicated.
From the beginning of the school year through Dec. 14, a total of 52 ETHS students tested positive for COVID-19. In the week ending Dec. 21, an additional 129 students tested positive for COVID-19. In that same week, 11 staff members tested positive.
The chart below shows the number of ETHS students who tested positive for COVID-19 in the seven days preceding the date indicated. The data does not indicate that students contracted the virus while at school.
Due to the surge in cases, ETHS administrators announced on Dec. 15 that they canceled a number of events, and on Dec. 16 they announced that the remaining days before the winter break, from Dec. 17 to Dec. 23, would be conducted remotely.
Impact of Northwestern University. The most recent data on Northwestern University’s website reports that between Dec. 13 and Dec. 19, there were 476 new confirmed COVID-19 cases of an NU faculty member, staff member or student. The chart below shows the trend.
If the faculty member, staff member or student resides in Evanston, the case or cases would be included in the City’s numbers.
The risk level of community spread
The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois increased from 442 in the seven days ending Dec. 16 to 695 for the seven days ending Dec. 23. The number of new cases per week in Illinois is now about 30 times higher than it was on June 10, the day before the state moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan.
As of Dec. 23, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston is 1,133. The number per 100,000 for Chicago is 854, and for suburban Cook County it is 802. The chart at the top of this article illustrates that these numbers have spiked in the last week.
Under CDC guidelines, Illinois, Chicago, suburban Cook County and Evanston are considered to be areas of “high transmission.” See footnote 2. An area is regarded as a “high transmission” area 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. Evanston is 11 times higher than the threshold.
Test Positivity Rates: The seven-day test-positivity rates are Illinois – 8.6%; Chicago – 8.2%; suburban Cook County – 7.5%; and Evanston – 6.6%%.
These rates are all significantly higher than one week ago. They indicate that there are many cases that are not being detected, and that the risk of spread is increasing.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that as of Dec. 23, 76.3% of Illinois residents five and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 68% 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 IDPH.)
Data provided by IDPH indicates that only about 37% of the people in Illinois who are fully vaccinated have received the booster shot, which is regarded as important to boost the effectiveness of the vaccines, particularly with respect to the omicron variant.
As of Dec. 23, 92.4% of Evanston residents five and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 83.7 % were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston.)
ICU bed usage
Hospitalization rates are going up. In Chicago and suburban Cook County the percent of Intensive Care Unit beds that are available is only 10%. IDPH said the desired target level is 20%.
Evanston recommendations for gathering with family over the holidays
In a prepared statement, the City’s Department of Health and Human Services provided some advice concerning whether it was still safe to gather with family for the holidays. The DHHS said, “If you’re fully vaccinated, and especially if you’ve had your booster shot, you continue to be well protected from severe illness from COVID-19, including from the delta and omicron variants.
“While every individual and family has a unique set of risks and circumstances that may factor into how they choose to celebrate the holidays, there are a few measures we can all take to minimize our risks and reduce the spread of COVID-19: get vaccinated and get a booster shot when you’re eligible; get tested if you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19; stay home if you’re sick; wear a mask in public indoor spaces; maintain a six-foot distance from those who don’t live with you; avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces; increase ventilation indoors (open windows) and celebrate outdoors when possible; wash your hands frequently; and if you’re not fully vaccinated, avoid large gatherings with those outside of your household.”
The DHHS said it would decide next week whether people over five would be required to show proof of full vaccination to dine inside a restaurant in Evanston or visit gyms or entertainment venues.
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
Cook county CDC COVID Data Tracker