New COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Chicago, suburban Cook County, Illinois and the nation. There was a decline in the weekly number of new cases in Evanston, likely due in significant part to the closing of School District 65, ETHS and Northwestern University for the holidays. But the risk of transmission in Evanston still remains extremely high.

Coronavirus cases are soaring across the United States, but hospitalizations remain “comparatively low,” Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Dec. 28.

In the nation, the seven-day average of new cases is about 240,000, up by 60% from the previous week, she said, although hospitalizations rose by only 14%.

Dr. Walensky said, though, that hospitalizations tend to lag behind infections by roughly two weeks. She added that the omicron variant, which is estimated to be responsible for 59% of the new COVID cases, appears to cause milder symptoms, especially for vaccinated people.

The seven-day average of new cases in the nation jumped to more than 300,000 on Dec. 30.

Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a prepared statement released on Dec. 28, “We are seeing a higher number of new infections each day than we have seen at any time throughout the entire pandemic.” She said IDPH was streamlining procedures to conduct contact tracing and that it would provide local health departments with additional information to enable them to identify “any potential clusters and outbreaks.”

At a news conference earlier in the week, she encouraged everyone to get vaccinated. “We have a vaccine that’s highly effective, and it can prevent severe illness and death if we take advantage of this effective tool.

“Admittedly, no vaccine is 100%,” she said. “But if you can significantly, drastically reduce your chance of being hospitalized, or dying, why wouldn’t you avail yourself of that opportunity?”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged people to “take extra care” at New Year’s Eve celebrations.

“Omicron and delta are coming to your party,” he said. “So, you need to think twice about how many people will be gathered together, keeping social distancing if you’re at a party and if you can’t, leave.”

Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s Chief Medical Adviser, said on Dec. 29, that people should feel comfortable gathering on New Year’s Eve with small groups of relatives who are fully vaccinated, with boosters. But, he said, “If your plans are to go to a 40- to-50-person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a happy new year? I would strongly recommend that this year, we do not do that.”

On Dec. 30, Evanston’s Health & Human Services Department issued a new mitigation order requiring proof of vaccination for customers of indoor settings where food and drink are served for on-site consumption, such as restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. The order also applies to theaters, performance venues, health clubs, recreation centers and fitness facilities. The order, which is effective Jan. 10, 2022, is similar to orders issued by the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Cook County Department of Public Health and the Village of Skokie Health Department.

A booster shot is not required to comply with the Evanston order.

“As COVID-19 cases surge in Evanston and throughout the Chicago area, vaccination remains our strongest protection against severe illness and hospitalization from this highly contagious virus,” said Evanston Health & Human Services Director Ike Ogbo. “These mitigation measures will help reduce transmission in crowded indoor settings, such as dining and fitness facilities, and provide much needed support to our strained healthcare system.”

Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss said, “Amid this latest surge in COVID-19 cases, these mitigations are necessary to slow the spread of this disease and keep each other safe. I greatly appreciate our entire community’s efforts and continued adherence to public health guidance during this very challenging time.”

The order does not apply to individuals 18 years or younger entering a location to participate in a K-12 school activity or after-school program.

Also on Dec. 30, Gov. Pritzker urged hospitals to halt non-emergency surgeries to free up space for people with COVID-19, anticipating a surge after the holiday and a potential shortage of ICU beds.

And IDPH adopted CDC’s recommendation to reduce the number of days for isolation and quarantine for the general public. IDPH’s summary of the recommendations is available here: press-release (

Trends of New Cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois: The number of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois continues to mount.  On Dec. 30, the number of new cases in the state was 30,386. The seven-day average of new cases in Illinois is 18,321, up from 12,573 one week ago, a 46% increase. An accompanying chart shows the upward trend since Oct. 28.

Evanston: Evanston reported 109 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on Dec. 30.

There was a total of 618 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending Dec. 30, compared to 839 new cases in the week ending Dec. 23. The seven-day average decreased to 88.3 from 119.8 one week ago. An accompanying chart show the trend.

There has been a total of 7,785 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 285 of which are active.

No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 in the last week. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 128.  

Impact of Northwestern University. NU closed for the holidays on Dec. 22, and will not be reporting data for the week ending Dec. 30.

The Risk Level of Community Spread

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois increased from 695 in the seven days ending Dec. 23, to 1,012 for the seven days ending Dec. 30. The number of new cases per week in the State is now about 44 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. 30, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston is 834. The number per 100,000 for Chicago is 1,185, and for Suburban Cook County it is 1,204.  The chart at the beginning of this article illustrates that these numbers have spiked in the last week.

Under CDC guidelines, an area is regarded as a “high transmission” area if it has more than 100 new weekly cases per 100,000 people. See Footnote 2. Illinois, Chicago, Suburban Cook County and Evanston are all way past that threshold. Evanston is more than eight times higher than the threshold.

Test Positivity Rates: The most recent seven-day test-positivity rates are as follows: Illinois – 14.4%; Chicago – 15.1%; Suburban Cook County – 14.1%; and Evanston – 8.1%.

These rates are all significantly higher than one week ago, and all much higher than the threshold of 3% used by many health professionals. They indicate that there are many cases that are not being detected, and that the risk of spread is very high and increasing.


 IDPH reports that as of Dec. 30,  76.9% of Illinois residents who are 5 and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 68.3% were fully vaccinated. These percentages are increasing very, 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 40% 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, 93.1%of Evanston residents 5 and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 84% 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 12%. IDPH said the desired target level is 20%.

In Chicago the number of ICU beds being used for patients who have COVD-19 has increased from 641 to 1,045 in the last 10 days. In Suburban Cook County the increase was from 932 to 1,309.


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

 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...