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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 7-day average of 1,601 on March 3, a 95% drop. New cases in Evanston have continued to drop dramatically. Hospitalizations due to COVID have also shown significant declines.

On March 2 the White House published its 96-page National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. The introduction to the plan says it “will enable America to move forward safely, sustaining and building on the progress we’ve made over the past 13 months. This plan lays out the roadmap to help us fight COVID-19 in the future as we begin to get back to our more normal routines. We look to a future when Americans no longer fear lockdowns, shutdowns and our kids not going to school. It’s a future when the country relies on the powerful layers of protection we have built and invests in the next generation of tools to stay ahead of this virus.”

In some ways, the plan lays out ways to live with COVID-19 rather than ways to eradicate it.

The plan has four key goals, each of which has many elements: protect against and treat COVID-19, prepare for new variants, prevent economic and educational shutdowns and continue to vaccinate the world.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden said he particularly liked three parts of the plan. First, he said the federal government is launching a “test to treat” program. Under this program, people may get tested for COVID-19 at pharmacies and other locations and if they test positive they would immediately be given antiviral pills which they could take home at no cost. Because the antiviral pills only work if they are given shortly after COVID is contracted, this may help reduce the impact of infections and the need for hospitalizations.

Second, the administration plans to stockpile testing kits, antiviral pills and high-quality masks in preparation for any future surge in COVID cases that might occur.

Third, the government is setting up early-warning systems, such as monitoring communal wastewater for the virus. It is also working on ways to streamline and speed up the process to approve new vaccines.

Many of the initiatives laid out in the plan depend on Congressional approval of new funding.

Trends of new cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois:  On March 3, the number of new cases in the state was 1,689, down from 1,979, on Feb. 24.

The seven-day average of new cases in Illinois on March 3 was 1,601, down from 2,020 on Feb. 24, a 19% decline. The seven-day average is about 5% of what it was at the peak on Jan. 12. An accompanying chart shows the trend since Nov. 25.  

The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates that 100% of the new cases are due to the omicron variant.

Evanston: Evanston reported there were 10 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on March 2. (Evanston is reporting COVID-19 data with a one-day delay.)

There was a total of 59 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending March 2, compared to 87 new cases in the seven days ending Feb. 24.

The seven-day average of new cases per day was 8.4 for the week ending March 2, compared to 12.4 for the week ending Feb. 24. An accompanying chart shows the trend.

No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 during the week ending March 2. The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 144, according to the city.

Cases at D65 and ETHS: School District 65’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that for the seven-days ending March 1, a total of 14 students tested positive for COVID-19. No staff members tested positive during that period.

ETHS reports on its dashboard that in the seven-day period ending Feb. 28, 2 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. 18 and Feb. 24 there were 152 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 112 in the seven days ending Feb. 24, to 88 in the seven days ending March 3.  

As of March 2, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston was 80. As of March 3, the number was 91 for Chicago, and 80 for suburban Cook County.   

Under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, if the number of new cases is between 50 and 100 per 100,000 population, 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 – 1.7%; Chicago – 1.2%; suburban Cook County – 1.7%; and Evanston – 0.39%.

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.  

Vaccinations

As of March 3, 80.8% of Illinois residents five and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 71.7% were fully vaccinated. (Source: CDC and IDPH)

Data provided by IDPH indicates that only about 51% 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 March 3, 97.2% of Evanston residents five and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine and 87.4% 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 881 on March 2.

In suburban Cook County, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 dropped from a seven-day average of 342 to 209 in the last 10 days. In Chicago, the number went from 377 to 240.

In Chicago and suburban Cook County, the percentage of Intensive Care Unit beds that are available is 18% in each region. IDPH says the desired minimum is 20%.  

Deaths

There was a total of 38 deaths due to COVId-19 in Illinois on March 3. The seven-day average was 44, compared to 47 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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