EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) – COVID-19 measurements have become disturbing in the northern suburb of Evanston, where societal risk has been raised to the “high” level.
The Evanston Department of Health and Human Services reported 397 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days – up from 305 the week before.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines the societal risk level based on three measurements, of which only one case is. The measurements are the number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people over the past seven days, the percentage of staffed beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and the total new number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days.
Based on these criteria, Evanston is now in 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 environments, get tested before a family and public event, stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, and follow CDC isolation and quarantine recommendations.
In Evanston, it is estimated that about 90 percent of people are fully vaccinated, and the focus has shifted to getting people to stay up on booster shots.
“Evanstonians have been doing a wonderful job following health care for over two years, and lives were saved because of it,” Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss said in a press release. “As COVID-19 cases 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 sound.”
Some in Evanston wonder if a return of the mask mandate might come next time.
In the Campus Gear sportswear store, at 1722 Sherman Ave. in downtown Evanston close to the Northwestern University campus, there is still a sign with the text “face mask required.” It’s actually a polite suggestion – so far.
“They ask us, ‘do you have to wear masks?’ and we’re like, ‘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 can mask more.
“We need to be a little more careful,” Mirzakhail said.
Families take a trip to Kilwin’s ice cream shop next door. We saw Vincent Bohanek and his loved ones help put on masks before going indoors.
“We have two members of the family who are autoimmune compromised,” Bohanek said. “Members of my family are even more protective. Like the outdoors, I do not want to wear it, but when I go inside, it’s just more demarcated areas.”
Evanston is now the first city in the Chicago area with the high-risk rating. Its figure of 395 cases in seven days corresponds to about 56 cases a day.
Northwestern University has its own system for COVID-19 measurements.
“We liked checking out the dashboard today just like during my class and I thought 450 is a lot!” said Paula Perez-Glassner.
That’s how many cases the Evanston campus in Northwestern reported in the past week. The positivity rate on Northwestern is 9.28 percent.
The school has seen a steady increase since mid-April – with infections mainly in the undergraduate.
“I personally think we should probably have more seats reinstated – 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 – a 32 percent increase over the week before. On Friday alone, the entire state of Illinois reported 8,411 new COVID-19 cases.
But on Friday afternoon, the Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady that the news is not all bad.
“We know there is some more concern, but the good news is that most infections – most cases here in Chicago – do not turn into hospitalizations, as they did at levels similar to this in previous increases,” Arwady said. . “It’s because of vaccines and boosters. It’s also because of the availability of our early treatments that are now available, which we did not even have six months ago.
Arwady said a change in hospital admissions could mean a change in the tide of mandates.
“We would have to look at a doubling of the number of Chicagoians recently admitted to the hospital with COVID compared to what we see now,” she said.
Chicago and the suburbs of Cook County are on one “medium” COVID-19 risk level. Suburban Cook County excludes for these purposes Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park and Stickney Township, each of which has its own health departments.