This article was updated with data posted late last night, Nov. 17, in which the CDC reported that Cook County moved to the low risk level.

In his latest weekly message, IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra continued to “strongly recommend all that have not gotten full protection from COVID-19 and the flu to get vaccinated right away. Both the new COVID-19 bivalent booster and the flu shot target the current strains of these viruses.” 

Dr. Vohra emphasized the importance of a flu vaccine this year, saying, “The U.S. is currently facing its highest flu hospitalization rate in a decade, with young children and seniors most at risk.”

New COVID-19 cases in Evanston and Illinois

In Illinois, the seven-day average of new cases was 1,969 on Nov. 17, up from 1,926 in the prior week, a 2% increase.

In Evanston, the seven-day average of new cases was 15.9 on Nov. 16, down from 16.1 in the prior week, a negligible decrease.

The number of new COVID-19 cases being publicly reported is grossly understated. [1]

Community risk rating

The CDC and IDPH look at a combination of three metrics to determine whether a community level of risk for COVID-19 is low, medium, or high. The graphic in footnote 2 below shows how these metrics are combined. [2]

To be rated in the low category, an area must: 1) have less than 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days; 2) have less than 10 new hospitalizations per 100,000 population due to COVID-19 in the last seven days; and 3) have less than 10% of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (last seven-day average). 

On Nov. 3, the City of Evanston reported that Evanston was in the medium risk category, due an increase in new hospital admissions. The data reported for Evanston is as follows:

  • New cases per 100,000 population: 142,
  • New hospital admissions due to COVID-19 per 100,000 population: 10.2,
  • % staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with COVID-19:  2.7%.

The City also provided the following information about the trend of hospitalizations at Evanston and St. Francis hospitals.

CDC reported late in the evening of Nov. 17, that Cook County moved into the low risk category. The change is due to the County’s new hospitalization rate dropping below 10 per 100,000 population. The data reported for Cook County is as follows:

  • New Cases per 100,000 population: 109,
  • New hospital admissions due to COVID-19 per 100,000 population: 9.1,
  • % staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with COVID-19:  3.7%.

CDC recommended steps

The CDC recommends that people should take certain steps to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 and to reduce the spread of the virus. There are six steps that apply to all community risk levels, another two for people in medium and high community risk areas, and two more for people in high community risk areas. The steps are:

At all COVID-19 community levels:

When the COVID-19 community level is medium or high:

  • If you are at high risk of getting very sick, wear a well-fitting mask or respirator when indoors in public.
  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick, consider testing to detect infection before contact and consider wearing a mask when indoors with them.

When the COVID-19 community level is high:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask or respirator.
  • If you are at high risk of getting very sick, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed.

FOOTNOTES

1/The number of new cases being publicly reported by the City of Evanston and the State are significantly lower than the actual number of new cases being contracted. The City of Evanston says that the State and the City do not have a mechanism to report, verify or track at home test results. Because a positive at home test is regarded as highly accurate, most people who test positive in an at home test do not get a second test outside the home that is reported to government officials. The number of new COVID-19 cases reported by IDPH and the City thus significantly understates the actual number of new cases that are contracted. Some studies estimate the cases are underestimated by about 750% or more.

2/ CDC and IDPH use 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. If the risk indicators relating to hospitalizations differ, the higher risk factor is used.

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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