COVID-19 update as of Sept. 22, Cook County moves to ‘low’ community risk level, accurate data lacking for Evanston – Evanston RoundTable

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The Illinois Department of Public Health is continuing to urge every eligible person to get the updated booster shot from either Pfizer or Moderna. “These new booster shots – designed specifically to offer extra protection from the dominant Omicron strain of the virus – are the latest, most advanced tool to protect Illinois residents from experiencing the worst effects of COVID-19,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. ”It’s important for everyone who is eligible to get up to date on vaccines and boosters as soon as possible, before a potential fall and winter surge leads to increased infections.”

Researchers say the boosters are not only important to protect against getting COVID, but also to protect against the effects of long-COVID which may occur even for mild cases of COVID.

New COVID-19 Cases in Evanston and Illinois

In Illinois, the seven-day average of new cases on was 2,522 on Sept. 22, down from 2,629 on Sept. 15, a 4% decrease. [1]

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported by the City of Evanston for the week ending Sept. 21 was 321, compared to 53 for the prior week. The City, however, reported a huge jump of 92 cases for Sept. 20, and 207 cases for Sept. 21.

By comparison, the total number of new cases in the prior five days, Sept. 15 – 19, was 22, or an average of 4.4 cases per day.

Ike Ogbu, Director of the City’s Health and Human Services Department, told the RoundTable that the high number of cases reported for Sept. 20 and 21 is due to a lab reporting delay (excluding Northwestern University), with cases backlogged as far back as early August. “We do not have an answer as to why there was this lab delay in case reporting. We are trying to get clarification.”

As a result of reporting this large backlog of cases, Ogbu said, “The City is not including the seven-day moving average or community risk level in today’s report, as they are not accurate representations of current cases and risk.”  

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 Sept. 22, the City of Evanston said it was not reporting the community risk level for Evanston because the count of new cases of Evanston residents in the last seven days was not accurate.

CDC reported this evening that Cook County, including Chicago, is now in the low risk category. The data for Cook County is as follows:

  • New Cases per 100,000 population:  116,
  • New hospital admissions due to COVID-19 per 100,000 population: 9.6,
  • % staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with COVID-19: 3.8%.

While the City lacks sufficient data to provide a risk rating for Evanston, it did provide the following information about hospitalizations at Evanston and St. Francis hospitals.

CDC Recommended Steps

On Aug. 11, the CDC issued new steps that people should take to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 and to reduce the spread. 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 (excluding occasions on which backlogs are reported) are significantly lower than the actual number of new cases being contracted because many new cases are not being reported. The City of Evanston says that the State, the County 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 indicator is used.

Source