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New COVID cases in the state have dropped from a seven-day average of 32,501 on Jan. 12 to a seven-day average of 2,020 on Feb. 24, a 94% drop.  New cases in Evanston have also dropped dramatically. Hospitalizations due to COVID have also shown significant declines.

Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss announced Feb. 23 that the City’s Health & Human Services Department will lift some of its vaccination and indoor masking mandates on Feb. 28, consistent with Governor J.B. Pritzker’s timeline.

“This means the City’s [Health & Human Services Department] will no longer require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces, such as stores, recreation facilities, community centers, libraries, entertainment venues, restaurants, and other spaces. In addition, businesses and venues will no longer be required to verify patrons’ proof of vaccination,” said the mayor.

After Feb. 28, however, masks will continue to be required where mandated by the state or federal government to protect vulnerable populations, including health care settings, long-term care facilities and congregate settings such as shelters and public transportation. Refer to  Illinois DCFS guidance regarding masking at daycare centers.

 Evanston businesses may choose to continue to implement their own mask and/or vaccine requirements for patrons after Feb. 28.

Biss said the city will continue to maintain its mandatory vaccination policy for all City of Evanston staff, City Council, members of Boards, Committees, and Commissions, contractors, volunteers, interns, seasonal and part-time workers. Currently, 89% of city staff are fully vaccinated, and the remaining 11% must complete weekly COVID-19 testing.

Schools

The validity of Pritzker’s executive order requiring masking in schools is still up in the air. Several weeks ago, a circuit court entered a temporary restraining order prohibiting the state from enforcing the executive order against the school districts that were plaintiffs in the case. An appellate court dismissed an appeal of the temporary restraining order taken by the Governor, finding that an emergency administrative rule containing a mask mandate had expired, and that a legislative body refused to approve a new emergency rule that would have extended the mandate.  Pritzker contends that even if an administrative rule is no longer in effect, an executive order that he entered requiring masks in schools is still effective as to all school districts that are not parties to the lawsuit.

On Feb. 22, Pritzker asked the Illinois Supreme Court to consider the issue to provide clarity.

Even if Pritzker’s executive order is no longer effective, school districts may impose their own masking requirements.

Devon Horton, Superintendent of School District 65, issued a statement that administrators are consulting with the city’s Health Department, medical advisors and union leaders to discuss masking requirements. “At this time, masks continue to be required indoors,” he said, adding, “We look to share an update with our community next week.”

Last week, Dr. Horton announced that masks are not required outdoors.

Evanston Township High School said it is continuing to monitor national, regional and local guidance. “Due to the lack of clarity and the fluidity about the state mandates, ETHS highly recommends, but does not mandate, wearing masks while indoors for all students and staff as of February 28, 2022,” administrators said in a prepared statement.

The City’s Health & Human Services Department continues to recommend masks in schools, especially in crowded settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as large indoor events.

 Trends of new cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois:  On Feb. 24, the number of new cases in the state was 1,979, down from 2,538, on Feb. 17.

 The seven-day average of new cases in Illinois on Feb. 24 was 2,020, compared to 3,289 on Feb. 17, a 39% decline. The seven-day average is about 6% of what it was at the peak on Jan. 12. An accompanying chart shows the trend since Oct. 28.

The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates that 99% of the new cases are due to the omicron variant.

Evanston: The city reported there were 12 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on Feb. 23. (Evanston is reporting COVID-19 data with a one-day delay.)

There was a total of 93 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending Feb. 123, compared to 109 new cases in the seven days ending Feb. 17.

The seven-day average of daily new cases was 13.3 for the week ending Feb. 23, compared to 15.6 for the week ending Feb. 17.  An accompanying chart shows the trend.

One Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 during the week ending Feb. 23. The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 142, according to the city.

Cases at D65 and ETHS: School District 65’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that for the seven-days ending Feb. 22, a total of six students tested positive for COVID-19. No staff members tested positive.

ETHS reports on its dashboard that in the seven-day period ending Feb. 22, six students and two 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 Feb. 11 and Feb. 17 there were 206 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.

The risk level of community spread

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois decreased from 182 in the seven days ending Feb. 17 to 112 in the seven days ending Feb. 24.  

As of Feb. 23, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston was 126. As of Feb. 24, the number was 77 for Chicago and 93 for suburban Cook County.   

Under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, an area is regarded as “high transmission” if it has more than 100 new weekly cases per 100,000 people. If the number of cases is between 50 and 100, the area is regarded as a “substantial transmission” area. See footnote 2.

Test Positivity Rates: The most recent seven-day test-positivity rates are Illinois – 2.5%; Chicago – 1.4%; suburban Cook County – 2.1%; and Evanston – 0.96%.

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

Vaccinations

As of Feb. 24, 80.6% of Illinois residents five and older had at least one dose of a vaccine and 71.5% were fully vaccinated. (Source: CDC and IDPH.)

Data provided by IDPH indicates that only about 50.9% of fully vaccinated state residents have received the booster shot, which is regarded as important to boost the effectiveness of the vaccines.

As of Feb. 24, 96.9% of Evanston residents five and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine and 86.9% were fully vaccinated. (Source: City of Evanston)

Hospitalizations

Hospitalizations of COVID patients are continuing to go down. In Illinois the number of hospitalizations of COVID patients dropped from 7,380 on Jan. 12 to 1,183 on Feb. 23.  

 In suburban Cook County the number of hospitalizations dues to COVID-19 dropped from a seven-day average of 502 to 309 in the last 10 days. In Chicago the number went from 427 to 293.

In Chicago and suburban Cook County the percentages of Intensive Care Unit beds that are available are 17% and 19%, respectively. IDPH says the desired minimum is 20%.

Deaths

There was a total of 63 deaths due to COVId-19 in Illinois on Feb. 24. The seven-day average was 47, compared to 65 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. thank you for continuing your thorough coverage of the pandemic in our town. i have been relying on your coverage since the beginning and it has been very accurate and easy to understand. thanks again from a very satisfied member