“Illinois continues to see a dramatic rise in communities at elevated risk levels for COVID-19,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, in a recent statement issued by IDPH. 

“As we prepare for holiday gatherings with our loved ones, I want to remind Illinoisians that these elevated COVID-19 community levels, along with rising flu levels, are leading to a surge of respiratory infections, increased hospitalizations and limited hospital beds.

“I strongly recommend all Illinoisians take preventative steps to protect themselves and their family and friends, especially those most vulnerable including young children and individuals over 65.

“These preventative measures start with being up-to-date with the COVID-19 bivalent booster that is now authorized for children as young as six months old. Getting your flu shot is very important too,” said Vohra.

“Other important protective steps include COVID-19 testing, especially if visiting someone at risk for severe disease; enhanced ventilation at gatherings; and good hand hygiene.

“And if you are sick, stay home and consult with your provider about whether you need one of the effective treatments that are available. A high-quality mask or respirator is also recommended and will protect you from COVID-19, the flu and other respiratory viruses.  Our hope is for Illinoisians across our state to have a happy and healthy holiday season.”

New Covid cases in Evanston and Illinois

In Illinois, the seven-day average of new cases was 3,225 on Dec. 22, down from 3,461 in the prior week, a 2% decrease.

In Evanston, the seven-day average of new cases was 21.0 on Dec. 21, down from 21.4 in the prior week, a 2% decrease. The chart below, prepared by the City of Evanston, reflects the number of new cases of Evanstonians for the last 30 days and the seven-day moving average.

The number of new Covid cases being publicly reported is grossly understated. [1]

Community risk rating

IDPH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention look at a combination of three metrics to determine whether a community level of risk for covid 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:

  • Have less than 200 new Covid cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days;
  • Have less than 10 new hospitalizations per 100,000 population due to Covid in the last seven days; and
  • Have less than 10% of staffed inpatient beds occupied by Covid patients (last seven-day average). 

On Dec. 22, the City of Evanston reported that Evanston remained at medium risk. The data reported by the city was:

  • New cases per 100,000 population: 188
  • New hospital admissions due to Covid per 100,000 population: 11.2
  • % staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with Covid:  5.97%.

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

CDC reported this evening that Cook County stayed at medium risk. The data for Cook County was:

  • New cases per 100,000 population: 183
  • New hospital admissions due to Covic per 100,000 population: 13.4
  • % staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with Covid:  5.8%.

CDC recommended steps

The CDC recommends that people should take certain steps to minimize the risk of contracting covid 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 community levels:

When the Covid 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 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 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 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 community levels: 1) new Covid cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days; 2) new Covid hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the last seven days; and 3) the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by patients with confirmed covid (seven-day average). 

The chart below illustrates how these indicators are combined to determine whether covid community levels are low, medium, or high. The CDC provides many recommendations depending on whether the covid 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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