New daily COVID cases in the state have dropped from a seven-day average of 32,501 on Jan. 12 to a seven-day average of 3,299 on Feb. 17, a 90% drop.  As illustrated in the above chart, new cases in Evanston have also dropped dramatically. Hospitalizations due to COVID have also shown significant declines.

If the trend continues, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he plans to end the state’s mask mandate on Monday, Feb. 28, with an exception for public transportation, health care settings, congregate care facilities, schools and some other settings.

Pritzker said he would continue the mask mandate in schools, but his authority to impose a mask mandate and require students and staff to quarantine is being considered by an appellate court, which may rule any day.

On Feb. 14, the Illinois Department of Public Health adopted an emergency rule that would have required masks in schools, but that rule was blocked on Feb. 15 by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative committee that must approve administrative rules before they go into effect.

Whether the state’s mask mandate for schools will survive is uncertain.

The City of Evanston has its own mask mandate and vaccination order in place. The city announced Feb. 17 that, “In alignment with the State of Illinois and the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH), the Evanston Health and Human Services Department (EHHS) anticipates that if leading COVID-19 metrics continue to improve through February, the City of Evanston vaccination and masking orders can be lifted consistent with Gov. Pritzker’s time frame, anticipated to be Monday, Feb. 28.”

The city said, “The metrics EHHS is monitoring related to mask and vaccine mandates include: 

  • Sustained improvement in hospital and Intensive Care Unit bed availability with decreased admissions for COVID-19
  • Decreased case rates to a moderate level per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria (10-49.99 cases per 100,000 population) for a sustained period
  • Decreased case positivity rate to a moderate level per CDC criteria (5-7.99%) for a sustained period

“EHHS will continue to monitor all measures that will be considered in the decision-making process and will provide an update next week. Not all metrics need to be at target to modify the current mitigations, but substantial progress must be observed.

“After Feb. 28, even with a change in local mitigations, masks will continue to be required where mandated by the state and federal government, such as on public transit and in high-risk settings, including healthcare facilities and congregate care.”

The city also made clear that “mask and vaccination mandates are still in effect at this time … [and] until mitigations are modified, the Evanston Health and Human Services Department continues to mandate universal masking in indoor public places and vaccination requirements for covered entities as part of a layered strategy to control the spread of the virus.”

The city also said that “masks are still required in schools at this time: The State of Illinois continues to mandate masks in all public and private Pre-K-12 schools that are not part of a pending lawsuit, and the City has not yet decided whether it will continue or end its mandate.”

On Feb. 11, School District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton announced that students would not be required to wear masks outdoors, with some exceptions. Students, however, will be required to wear masks indoors, except when eating.

Illinois:  On Feb. 17, the number of new cases in the state was 2,538, compared to 5,419, on Feb. 10.

The seven-day average of daily new cases in Illinois on Feb. 17 was 3,289, compared to 5,716 on Feb. 10, a 42% decline. The seven-day average is about 9% of what it was at the peak on Jan. 12. An accompanying chart shows the trend since Oct. 28.

The IDPH estimates that 88% of the new cases are due to the omicron variant, and 12% to the delta variant.

Evanston: Evanston reported there were 18 new COVID-19 cases among Evanston residents on Feb. 16. (Evanston is reporting COVID-19 data with a one-day delay.)

There was a total of 122 new COVID-19 cases among Evanston residents in the week ending Feb. 16, compared to 152 new cases in the seven days ending Feb. 10.

The seven-day average of new cases per day was 17.4 for the week ending Feb. 16, compared to 22.7 for the week ending Feb. 10.  An accompanying chart shows the trend.

Two Evanstonians died from COVID-19 during the week ending Feb. 16. The total number of Evanston deaths due to COVID-19 is 143.

Cases at District 65 and ETHS: School District 65’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that for the seven-days ending Feb. 15, a total of 24 students and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

ETHS reports on its dashboard that in the seven-day period ending Feb. 14, 15 students and four staff members 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 Feb. 4 and 10, there were 123 new COVID-19 cases of faculty, staff or students. If the cases are of an Evanston resident, they are included in Evanston’s data for the relevant period. NU will update its data tomorrow.

The risk level of community spread

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois decreased from 316 in the seven days ending Feb. 10, to 182 in the seven days ending Feb. 17.  

As of Feb. 16, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston was 165. For Cook County, the number was 143.  

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.

Test Positivity Rates: The most recent seven-day test-positivity rates are: Illinois – 3.3%; Chicago – 2.0%; suburban Cook County – 2.9%; and Evanston – 0.96%.

The CDC and IDPH both say if an area has a test positivity rate below 5.0%, it is regarded as having a “low” transmission rate.  


As of Feb. 17, 80.5% of Illinois residents five and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 71.2% were fully vaccinated. (Source: CDC and IDPH)

Data provided by IDPH indicates that only about 50.5% of Illinois residents who are fully vaccinated have received the booster shot, which is regarded as important to boost the effectiveness of the vaccines.

As of Feb. 2, 96.9% of Evanston residents five and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 86.9% were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston)


Hospitalizations of COVID patients are continuing to decline. In Illinois, the number of hospitalizations of COVID patients dropped from 7,380 on Jan. 12 to 1,611 on Feb. 17.  

In suburban Cook County, the number of hospitalizations dropped from a seven-day average of 729 to 453 in the last 10 days. In Chicago, the number went from 620 to 379.

In Chicago and suburban Cook County, the percentage of ICU beds that are available is 16%. IDPH says the desired minimum is 20%.


There was a total of 73 deaths due to COVID-19 in Illinois on Feb. 17. The seven-day average was 65, compared to 80, one week ago.


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 and 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 seven-day period. Areas of high transmission are considered to be those with more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-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 seven 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 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...