In the last week, the number of new COVID-19 cases increased in Evanston, with many new cases reported at School District 65 and Evanston Township High School. Hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise across the state. There is a glimmer of hope that the surge due to the Omicron virus may have peaked, but it is too soon to tell.

Yesterday, Jan. 12, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, noted there was a dip in the number of new cases in the State, but she was hesitant to say that the latest surge in COVID-19 cases has peaked.

“You really want to see a consistent decline,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at a news conference in Chicago. “I will be the first to announce it when we can say that pretty confidently … but I just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

She added that the surge in new cases has put a strain on hospitals. On Jan. 10, 7,353 people were hospitalized in Illinois. On Jan. 11, the number was 7,219, and on Jan. 12, it was 7,380, an all-time high for the pandemic.

Dr. Ezike said that more than 80% of the hospitalizations due to COVIE-19 were people who were not vaccinated. She added that less than 1% of people who are vaccinated are currently being hospitalized for severe COVID-19.

She said, “Every hospital bed occupied by someone with COVID, who was not vaccinated, potentially could have averted that hospitalization, and we’re making it difficult for people who were having a heart attack, who end up in a car crash, have their appendix burst, have a cancer-related complication. Any kind of medical emergency, we’re threatening the ability of those people to get the care they need.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, “I can’t say enough about how extraordinary our hospitals and our health care heroes have been throughout this pandemic, but specifically in the present moment, when exhaustion and long hours greet them every single day.”

Gov. Pritzker said Illinois is sending 2,048 additional healthcare workers to hospitals in the state in danger of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. About 600 are being sent as part of “COVID reaction teams to respond quickly to emerging crises at hospitals and other health care facilities,” he said.

“With unprecedented numbers of patients being hospitalized, we must do all that we can to keep our healthcare workers and institutions operating and available to all who need medical assistance. I encourage everyone to help. The most important thing that you can do right now is to get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask to stop the spread,” Gov. Pritzker said.

“This current wave of COVID is causing more people to get sick than ever before in the pandemic,” he said, “and the vast majority of the serious illnesses and deaths are among the unvaccinated.”

Trends of New Cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois:  On Jan. 13, the number of new cases in the state was 37,048, compared to 44,089 on Jan. 6.

While the number of new cases in a single day dropped by 18%, the seven-day average of new cases in Illinois on Jan. 13 increased to 31,495, from 27,141 one week ago on Jan. 6, a 16% increase. Whether the surge in new cases has peaked remains to be seen. An accompanying chart shows the upward trend since Oct. 28.

IDPH estimates that 57% of the new cases are due to the Omicron variant, and 43% the Delta variant. The Omicron variant appears to cause less serious illness, according to several studies.

Evanston: Evanston reported there were 273 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on Jan. 13.

There was a total of 894 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending Jan. 13, compared to 663 new cases in the prior week ending Jan. 6, a 35% increase.  The seven-day average increased to 127.7 new cases from 94.7 one week ago. The chart below shows the trend.

There has been a total of 9,342 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 690 of which are active.

No Evanstonian has died due to COVID-19 since Dec. 31. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 129.

Cases at D65 and ETHS: School District 65’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that for the seven-days ending Jan. 11, a total of 133 students and 48 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

ETHS reports on its dashboard that in the seven-day period ending Jan. 7, 20 students and 29 staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Impact of Northwestern University. The latest data reported on NU’s website is that between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13, there were 686 new COVID-19 cases of faculty, staff or students. If the cases were of residents of Evanston, they would be included in Evanston’s numbers.T

NU’s dashboard says, “The vast majority of Northwestern community members who test positive are showing minor symptoms, if any, and they are recovering quickly. We expect to see continued elevated numbers next week as students continue returning to Evanston and Chicago to complete arrival testing, but anticipate the Wildcat Wellness period will help to stabilize some of the transmission in our community.”   

The Risk Level of Community Spread

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois increased from 1,499 in the seven days ending Jan. 6, to 1,740 in the seven days ending Jan. 13. The number of new cases per week in the State is now about 75 times higher than it was on June 10, the day before the State moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan. 

As of Jan. 6, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston is 1,207. The number per 100,000 for Chicago is 1,358, and for Suburban Cook County it is 1,610. The chart at the beginning of this article shows the trends.  

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 12 times higher than the threshold.

Test Positivity Rates: The most recent seven-day test-positivity rates are as follows: Illinois – 16.2%; Chicago – 15.6%; Suburban Cook County – 16.3%; and Evanston – 6.02%. These rates have each declined from one week ago.

The rates for Illinois, Chicago and Suburban Cook County all indicate that there are many cases that are not being detected, and that the risk of spread is very high and increasing. The CDC and IDPH both say that a test positivity rate over 10% indicates an area is a “high transmission” area.

Vaccinations

As of Jan. 13, 78.3% of Illinois residents who are 5 and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 69.1% 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 45% 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 Jan. 13, 94.6% of Evanston residents 5 and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 84.8% were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston)

ICU Bed Usage

Hospitalizations of COVID patients are going up. In Suburban Cook County the increase of hospitalizations went from a seven-day average of 1,655 to 1,969 in the last 10 days. In Chicago the increase went from 1,415 to 1,755.

In Chicago and Suburban Cook County the percent of Intensive Care Unit beds that are available is only 8%. IDPH said the desired minimum is 20%.  As of Jan. 13, there was a combined total of 110 ICU beds available in Chicago and Suburban Cook County.

Deaths

There were a total of 142 deaths due to COVId-19 in Illinois on Jan. 13. The seven-day average was 98, up from 63 one week ago.

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 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

 

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