In the last week, the number of new COVID-19 cases decreased in Evanston, according to the city, which is now reporting the data with a one-day time lag. School District 65 and Evanston Township High School are continuing to report many new cases. New cases and hospitalizations are down significantly in Chicago, suburban Cook County and the state, raising hopes that the latest surge may have peaked.

Last week the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were higher than at any other time in the pandemic. IDPH said 90% of the people who were hospitalized with COVID-10 were not vaccinated.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Jan. 19, “You don’t know when a surge has reached its peak until you’re on the other side of it. Today is our seventh day since we saw peak hospitalizations of 7,380 reported on Jan. 13.

“I want to be clear, I am cautiously optimistic about this decline, but there are an awful lot of people still battling for their lives in hospitals across Illinois.”

IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said yesterday that hospitalizations “are decreasing,” but the “numbers are still high. … The good news is the trend is downward.”

While the number of new COVID-19 cases is still very high, Dr. Ezike estimated that more than 50% of all COVID tests are now being done at home and new cases are not being reported to IDPH. Hospitalizations, she said, are the best indicator of how the state is doing.

Dr. Ezike said the IDPH and the Governor’s staff were watching the downward trends and would make updates on masking guidance in the future if current trends continue. She said readily available vaccines and upcoming therapeutics would allow Illinois to pivot to “coexist with the virus.”

“We are still very much in a period of immense strain for our health care systems,” Pritzker said. “So, we must do all that we can to keep our health care workers and institutions operating and available to all who may need medical assistance.”

Trends of New Cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois:  On Jan. 20, the number of new cases in the state was 23,246, compared to 37,048 on Jan. 13, a 37% drop.

The seven-day daily average of new cases in Illinois on Jan. 20 was 24,674, compared to 31,495 on Jan. 13, a 22% decline. An accompanying chart shows the trend since Oct. 28.

IDPH estimates that 85% of the new cases are due to the omicron variant and 15% to the delta variant. The omicron variant appears to cause less serious illness, according to several studies.

Evanston: Evanston reported 58 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on Jan. 19. (Evanston is now reporting case updates, with a one-day delay.)

There was a total of 740 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending Jan. 19, compared to 894 new cases in the seven days ending Jan. 13. The seven-day average of new cases was 105.7 for the week ending Jan. 19, compared to 127.7 for the week ending Jan. 13.  The chart below shows the trend.

There has been a total of 9,809 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic, 101 of which are active.

One Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 on Jan. 15. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 130.

Cases at D65 and ETHS (updated on Jan. 21): School District 65’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that for the seven days ending Jan. 21, a total of 125 students and 23 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

ETHS reports on its dashboard that in the seven-day period ending Jan. 21, 51 students and 4 staff tested positive for COVID-19.

The data does not reflect whether the students and staff contracted the virus while at school.  

Impact of Northwestern University. The latest data reported on NU’s website is that between Jan. 14 and Jan. 20, there were 229 new COVID-19 cases of faculty, staff or students. If the cases were of an Evanston resident, they were included in Evanston’s data.

The risk level of community spread

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois decreased from 1,740 in the seven days ending Jan. 13, to 1,363 in the seven days ending Jan. 20.  The number of new cases per week in the state is now about 59 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. 19, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston is 999. As of Jan. 20, the number of new cases per 100,000 people in Chicago is 881, and for suburban Cook County it is 1,071. The chart at the beginning of this article shows the trends.

Under U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines, an area is regarded as “high transmission” 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 about 10 times higher than the threshold.

Test Positivity Rates: The most recent seven-day test-positivity rates are as follows: Illinois – 14.8%; Chicago – 11.9%; suburban Cook County – 12.9%; and Evanston – 4.6 %. 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. 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. 20, 79.2% of Illinois residents five years old and older had at least one dose of a vaccine and 69.6% 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 46.6% of Illinois residents 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. 19, 95.4% of Evanston residents five and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 85.3% were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston.)

ICU Bed Usage

Hospitalizations of COVID patients are going down. In suburban Cook County the number of hospitalizations went from a seven-day average of 1,942 to 1,708 in the last 10 days. In Chicago the number went from 1,733 to 1,572.

In Chicago and suburban Cook County the percent of Intensive Care Unit beds that are available is only 10%. IDPH said the desired minimum is 20%.  As of Jan. 20, there was a combined total of 158 ICU beds available in Chicago and suburban Cook County.

Deaths

There were a total of 198 deaths due to COVId-19 in Illinois on Jan. 20, the third highest in the entire pandemic. The seven-day average was 109, compared to 98, 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

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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