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New COVID-19 cases in suburban Cook County, Chicago and the state increased again in the last week. New cases in Evanston remained flat. Hospitalizations due to COVID remain at relatively low levels. Cook County remains in the “low” risk level. Evanston is in the “middle” risk level.

It is generally accepted that new case counts are significantly understated because many people who test positive on tests taken at home are not reporting them.

Mask mandates on public transit

Mask mandates on public transit were thrown out this week, but an appeal could bring them back.

On April 18, a federal judge in Florida stuck down a mask mandate for people using public transportation. The judge held that the mandate, imposed by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, exceeds the CDC’s statutory powers.

On April 19, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker entered an executive order that lifted the state’s mask mandate applicable to public transit, public transit hubs and airports. A statement issued by the Governor’s office said, however, “Local municipalities retain the right to establish their own mitigations, including masking requirements on public transportation.”

While eliminating the mask mandate in these settings, Pritzker said, “I continue to urge Illinoisans to follow CDC guidelines and, most importantly, get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.”

Shortly after the governor entered his order, the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, the Chicago Department of Transportation and Pace all lifted their mask requirements in public transit settings.

The CDC, nonetheless, continued to maintain that a mask mandate was necessary. It said, “At this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health. … CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”

On April 20 the Biden administration filed a notice of appeal of the judge’s ruling. Part of the concern is that if the ruling stands, it may pose a risk to the CDC’s authority to take steps in the future to curb the spread of deadly diseases and protect the public health.

Trends of new cases in Illinois and Evanston

Illinois:  On April 21, the number of new cases in the state increased to 3,587, up from 3,340 one week ago.

The seven-day average of new cases in Illinois on April 21 was 2,595, up from 1,992 on April 14, a 30% increase. An accompanying chart shows the trend.   

Evanston: Evanston reported there were 34 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents on April 20.  (Evanston is reporting COVID-19 data with a one-day delay.)

There was a total of 210 new COVID-19 cases of Evanston residents in the week ending April 20, compared to 208 new cases in the week ending April 14, an increase of only 2 cases.  

The seven-day average of new cases was 30 for the week ending April 20, compared to 29.7 for the week ending April 14. An accompanying chart shows the trend.

No Evanstonian died due to COVID-19 during the week ending April 20. The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at 147.

Cases at D65 and ETHS: School District 65’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that for the seven-days ending April 19, a total of 37 students and nine staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

ETHS reports on its dashboard that in the seven-days ending April 18, 10 students and nine 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 April 15 and April 21, there were 227 new COVID-19 cases of faculty, staff or students. If the cases are of an Evanston resident, they are supposed to be included in Evanston’s data for the relevant period.

Cases per 100,000

The weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Illinois increased from 109 in the seven days ending April 14, to 143 in the seven days ending April 21.

As of April 20, the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 people in Evanston was 284. As of April 21, the number was 153 for Chicago, and 185 for suburban Cook County. An accompanying chart shows the trend.

Hospitalizations

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are rising, but remain relatively low. The chart below, prepared by the City of Evanston, shows the trends.

IDPH ranking of Cook County

CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health look at the combination of three metrics — new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days, the seven-day average percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days — to determine the COVID-19 Community Level for each county in the state: low, medium or high. [1]

As of April 21, CDC and IDPH ranked Cook County in the “low” category.

IDPH recommends that people in a county with a low rating should:

  • “Wear a mask based on personal preference, informed by personal level of risk. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
  • “Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
  • “Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
  • “Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19
  • “If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease
  • “Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing)
  • “Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies.”

Evanston is in middle risk level

Using the metricts adopted by CDC and IDPH, Evanston is in the “middle” risk level.

IDPH recommends that people in a community with a “middle” ranking should:

  • “Wear a mask based on personal preference, informed by personal level of risk. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
  • “If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions (e.g., testing)
  • “If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease, consider self-testing to detect infection before contact, and consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
  • “Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
  • “Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
  • “Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19
  • “If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease
  • Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing)
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies

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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  1. The title seems disingenuous given that covid rates are so high and rising constantly in spite of one week of respite.