With cases rising at alarming rates both locally and nationally, we have entered a critical phase in our fight against COVID-19.

On Thursday and Friday, Evanston recorded 43 and 60 new COVID-19 cases, respectively, our highest numbers to date. Our 5.6 percent positivity rate, though significantly lower than suburban Cook County (15 percent), has doubled in the last two weeks. And perhaps most concerning, COVID-19 hospital admissions in our area have increased by 65 percent in the last week, as healthcare providers begin to restrict elective surgeries to avoid or delay shortages of beds, supplies and staff. All of this comes as colder weather pushes us indoors, where the virus can more easily spread.

That's why, on Friday, the City’s Health & Human Services Department issued an advisory encouraging all residents to stay home as much as possible for the next 30 days. That advisory went into effect this morning, and is in alignment with similar advisories issued by Cook County and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

We are approaching a moment of crisis. I am asking every Evanstonian to take this advisory seriously, and to commit to the following actions:

Stay home as much as possible. Limit outings to essential errands and activities, such as school, work, grocery shopping, and pharmacy visits. If you’re able to work from home, please do so.

Limit gatherings. To the extent possible, refrain from attending or hosting gatherings with those who do not live in your household. 

Limit non-essential travel. If you were thinking of traveling for the upcoming holidays or having friends and family to your home, now is the time to reconsider those plans. 

Double down on the basics. By now, we should all know the drill: Wear a face covering in public settings, keep six feet away from others, wash your hands thoroughly and often. Don't get complacent.

Right now, these are the most effective tools we have to slow the spread of COVID-19 short of a vaccine. And while there has been good news on that front recently, we aren't there yet. 

The weeks and months ahead will be a challenge, but the sacrifices we all make to "flatten the curve" today will save lives tomorrow. We did it last spring, and I know we can do it again.

I am continually grateful for your efforts, vigilance and sacrifices during this extraordinarily difficult time. Be well and stay safe.