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New COVID-19 cases in Evanston, Suburban Cook County, Chicago and the state dropped slightly in the last week. Hospitalizations due to COVID have shown significant declines.

 A fourth booster for people 65 and older

On March 16, Pfizer and BioNTech filed an application with the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization of a second booster shot of their vaccine for people 65 and older.

“The submission is based on two real-world data sets from Israel analyzed at a time when the Omicron variant was widely circulating. These data showed evidence that an additional mRNA booster increases immunogenicity and lowers rates of confirmed infections and severe illness,” said Pfizer and BioNTech in a prepared statement.

“Emerging evidence, including data from Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC), suggests that effectiveness against both symptomatic COVID-19 and severe disease caused by Omicron wanes 3 to 6 months after receipt of an initial booster (third) dose. Thus, additional booster doses may be needed to ensure individuals remain adequately protected,” said Pfizer and BioNTech in a prepared statement.

They said that an additional booster dose of their vaccine administered at least four months after an initial booster dose could improve protection against both infection and severe disease in individuals 60 years of age and older, and have a similar safety profile to that of previous doses.

“Clinical and real-world data continue to show that people who are vaccinated, particularly those who have received a booster, maintain a high level of protection, particularly against severe disease and hospitalization,” said the prepared statement.

“The companies remain vigilant and continue to collect data to explore new vaccine approaches and regimens to reduce the risk of infection and the risk of severe COVID-19 disease.”

A possible new surge

A surge in new COVID cases in several European countries has health authorities on alert for another possible surge in the United States. The surge is due to a subvariant known as BA.2 of the Omicron variant. Experts reportedly say the trend is more a cause for caution than alarm.

So far, the surges have not led to a significant increase in hospitalizations, and it does not appear to cause a more severe illness than the original Omicron variant. Existing vaccines are reportedly effective against the BA.2 variant.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported today that 100% of the new COVID-19 cases in Illinois are due to the Omicron variant, B.1.1. IDPH has not reported any cases of the BA.2 variant in Illinois.

Trends of new cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois:  On March 17, the number of new cases in the state was 1,150.

The seven-day average of new cases in Illinois on March 17 was 1,129, down from 1,146 on March 10, a 1.5% decline. The seven-day average is about 4% of what it was at the peak on Jan. 12. An accompanying chart shows the trend.   

Evanston: Evanston reported there were 8 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on March 16. (Evanston is reporting COVID-19 data with a one-day delay.)

There was a total of 63 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending March 16, compared to 67 new cases in the seven days ending March 10.

The seven-day average of new cases was 9 for the week ending March 16, compared to 9.6 for the week ending March 10.  An accompanying chart shows the trend.

No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 during the week ending March 16. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 145, according to the city.

Cases at D65 and ETHS: School District 65’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that for the seven days ending March 15, a total of 8 students and 3 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

ETHS reports on its dashboard that in the seven-day period ending March 14, 8 students and 0 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 March 4 and 10, there were 45 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 68 in the seven days ending March 10, to 62 in the seven days ending March 17.  

As of March 16, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston was 85. As of March 17, the number was 72 for Chicago, and 67 for Suburban Cook County.  

Under CDC’s community spread 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 as follows: Illinois – 1.4%; Chicago – 1.0%; Suburban Cook County – 1.2%; and Evanston – 0.7%.

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 17, 81% of Illinois residents who are 5 and older had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 72.2% were fully vaccinated. Source CDC and IDPH.

Data provided by IDPH indicates that only about 52% of the people in Illinois who are fully vaccinated have received the booster shot.  

As of March 16,  97.2% of Evanston residents 5 and older had received at least one dose of a vaccine; 87.5% 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 546 on March 17. About 3% of all hospital beds are serving COVID-19 patients.

 In Suburban Cook County the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 dropped from a seven-day average of 169 to 152 in the last 10 days. In Chicago the number went from 189 to 159.

In Chicago and Suburban Cook County the percentage of Intensive Care Unit beds that are available is about 20% and 18% respectively.  

Deaths

There was a total of 16 deaths due to COVID-19 in Illinois on March 17. The seven-day average was 16, compared to 24 one week ago.

FOOTNOTES

1/ CDC recommends the use of three indicators to measure COVID-19 Community Levels: 1) new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the last 7 days; 2) new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the last 7 days; and 3) the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by patients with confirmed COVID-19 (7-day average).  

The chart below illustrates how these indicators are combined to determine whether COVID-19 Community Levels are low, medium, or high. The CDC provides many recommendations depending on whether the COVID-19 Community Level is low, medium, or high.  

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/indicators-monitoring-community-levels.html

 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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