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In the last week, there was a significant drop in new COVID-19 cases and in hospitalizations in Chicago, suburban Cook County, and the state, suggesting that the latest surge due to the Omicron variant may have peaked. New cases in Evanston have also dropped.

CDC’s report on the omicron variant

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control published a report on Jan. 25 noting that the omicron variant became the predominant variant in the United States by late December, and that by Jan. 15 it represented 99.5% of new cases in the United States.

“The rapid rise in cases has resulted in the highest number of COVID-19–associated [emergency department] visits and hospital admissions since the beginning of the pandemic, straining the health care system,” the report said.

But the report added that the percentage of COVID-19 cases that resulted in hospitalizations was lower than in prior periods, and that “disease severity indicators,” including length of stay in a hospital, the rate of Intensive Care Unit admissions, the rate of using ventilator, and the rate of deaths were lower than during previous pandemic peaks.

The CDC concluded that the severity of the disease was likely less severe than in prior surges for three reasons: 1) a substantial increase in vaccinations among eligible people, which reduced the severity of the disease 2) lower virulence of the omicron variant and 3) infection-acquired immunity.

“Although disease severity appears lower with the omicron variant, the high volume of hospitalizations can strain local health care systems and the average daily number of deaths remains substantial,” said the report. “This underscores the importance of national emergency preparedness, specifically, hospital surge capacity and the ability to adequately staff local health care systems. In addition, being up to date on vaccinations and following other recommended prevention strategies are critical to preventing infections, severe illness, or death from COVID-19.”

In a CDC study published last week, researchers found that a booster of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine reduced the chance of hospitalization by 90% compared with unvaccinated people.

 “Thus, being up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and following other recommended prevention strategies are critical to prevent infections, severe illness, or death from COVID-19,” said the CDC report.

  Trends of new cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois:  On Jan. 27, the number of new cases in the state was 14,222, compared to 23,246 on Jan. 20, a 39% drop.

The seven-day average of daily new cases in Illinois on Jan. 27 was 21,286, compared to 24,674 on Jan. 20, a 14% decline. An accompanying chart shows the trend since Oct. 28.

The trend for the last five days is more promising. On Jan. 27, the five-day average of daily new cases in Illinois was 13,459.

The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates that 78% of the new cases are due to the omicron variant and 22% to the delta variant.

Evanston: The city reported 47 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on Jan. 26. (Evanston is now reporting case updates with a one-day delay.)

There was a total of 477 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending Jan. 26, compared to 600 new cases in the seven days ending Jan. 20. The seven-day average of daily new cases was 68.1 for the week ending Jan. 26, compared to 85.7 for the week ending Jan. 20.  The chart below shows the trend.

There has been a total of 10,286 COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents during the pandemic.

Two Evanston residents died from COVID-19 in the last week. That brings the total number of COVID deaths to 132.

Cases at D65 and ETHS (Updated on Jan. 29): School District 65’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that for the seven-days ending Jan. 28, a total of 80 students and 10 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

ETHS reports on its dashboard that in the seven-day period ending Jan. 23, 51 students and 16 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. 21 and Jan. 27 there were 181 new COVID-19 cases of faculty, staff or students. If the cases are of an Evanston resident, they are 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 1,363 in the seven days ending Jan. 20, to 1,176 in the seven days ending Jan. 27. The number of new cases per week in the state is now about 51 times higher than it was on June 10, the day before the wtate moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan. 

As of Jan. 26, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston was 644. As of Jan. 27, the number of new cases per 100,000 people in Chicago was 881, and for Suburban Cook County the number was 1,071.  The chart at the beginning of this article shows the trends.  

Under CDC 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 six times higher than the threshold.

Test Positivity Rates: The most recent seven-day test-positivity rates are: Illinois – 13.8%; Chicago – 11.0%; suburban Cook County – 12.8%; and Evanston – 2.9 %. 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. 27, 79.8% of Illinois residents five and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 70% 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 48% 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. 19, 95.9% of Evanston residents five and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 85.6% were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston.)

Hospitalizations

Hospitalizations of COVID patients are going down. In Illinois the number of hospitalizations of COVID patients declined from 7,380 on Jan. 12 to 4,824 on Jan. 26.

 In suburban Cook County the number of hospitalizations dropped from a seven-day average of 1,892 to 1,365 in the last 10 days. In Chicago the number went from 1,661 to 1,208.

In Chicago and suburban Cook County the percentages of Intensive Care Unit beds that are available are 11% and 13%, respectively. IDPH says the desired minimum is 20%.

Deaths

There were a total of 143 deaths due to COVId-19 in Illinois on Jan. 27. The seven-day average was 123, compared to 109 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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  1. Why doesn’t the Evanston City’s Covid site not list the daily cases anymore? All these numbers re. Evanston are confusing, as reported in this article, compared to how easy it was to follow the the state of Covid infections by looking at the City’s site. What happened to the City’s site?