COVID-19 reaches ‘high’ community risk level in Evanston

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — COVID-19 metrics have become ominous in Evanston’s northern suburbs, where community risk has risen to the “high” level.

The Evanston Department of Health and Human Services reported 397 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days, up from 305 the previous week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines the community’s level of risk based on three metrics of which cases are just one. The metrics are the number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people in the last seven days, the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases. for every 100,000 people in the past seven days.

Based on those criteria, Evanston now falls into the “high” risk category.

The city of Evanston is not currently reinstating a mask mandate, but the city’s Department of Health and Human Services says masks must be worn in public, regardless of vaccination status. It is also recommended to socialize outdoors and avoid poorly ventilated indoor settings, get tested before a family and public event, stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters, and follow CDC isolation and quarantine recommendations.

In Evanston, an estimated 90 percent of people are fully vaccinated, and the focus has shifted to getting people up to date on booster shots.

“Evanstonians have done a wonderful job following health guidelines for over two years and saving lives as a result,” Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss said in a news release. “As cases of COVID-19 begin to rise again, it is important that we remain vigilant and continue to do our part to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe and healthy.”

Some in Evanston are wondering if the next return of the mask mandate could come.

At the Campus Gear sportswear store, at 1722 Sherman Ave. in downtown Evanston, near the Northwestern University campus, there is still a sign saying “face mask required.” Actually, it’s a polite suggestion, for now.

“They ask us, ‘Are you required to have masks on?’ and we say, ‘It’s optional,'” said Campus Gear manager Steve Mirzakhail.

But now that the city of Evanston is at the “high” risk level for COVID-19, staff may be taking more cover.

“We have to be a little more cautious,” Mirzakhail said.

Families outing to the Kilwins ice cream parlor next door. We saw Vincent Bohanek and his loved ones helping put on masks before going inside.

“We have two family members who are autoimmune compromised,” Bohanek said. “My family members are even more protective. Just like outdoors, I don’t use it, but when I go inside, it’s more confined areas.”

Evanston is now the first city in the Chicago area to be classified as high risk. His figure of 395 cases in seven days amounts to about 56 cases per day.

Northwestern University has its own system for COVID-19 metrics.

“We like to check the board today like during my class, and I was like, 450 is a lot!” Paula Perez-Glassner said.

That’s the number of cases Northwestern’s Evanston campus reported last week. The positivity rate at Northwestern is 9.28 percent.

The school has seen a steady increase since mid-April, with infections mostly in college students.

“Personally, I think we should probably reinstate more mandates, also because we have our big Dillo Day next weekend, which is like the music festival,” Perez-Glassner said.

In Chicago, the current daily average of COVID-19 cases is 1,001, up 32 percent from the previous week. On Friday alone, the entire state of Illinois reported 8,411 new cases of COVID-19.

But on Friday afternoon, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the news isn’t all bad.

“We know there is some more concern, but the good news is that most infections, most cases here in Chicago, are not turning into hospitalizations like they did at levels similar to this in previous surges,” Arwady said. “That is due to vaccinations and boosters. It’s also because of access to our first treatments that are now available that we didn’t have even six months ago.

Arwady said that a change in hospitalizations could mean a change in the trend of mandates.

“We would need to double the number of Chicagoans recently hospitalized with COVID compared to what we’re seeing now,” he said.

Chicago and suburban Cook County are at a “medium” risk level for COVID-19. Suburban Cook County for these purposes excludes Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park, and Stickney Township, each of which has its own health departments.

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