Illustration by Catherine Buchaenic
The rate of COVID-19 cases, now at about 111 cases per 10,000 residents in Evanston, has decreased significantly since a spike on June 12, falling below neighboring towns like Skokie.
Health and Human Services Department Director Ike Ogbo attributed the decline in numbers to Evanston residents wearing masks and social distancing. Ogbo said the department has also used contact tracing and has been vigilantly monitoring assisted living facilities to help keep COVID-19 low.
According to Ogbo, cases have declined in the past month, dropping to two new? cases per day and zero on some days. However, Ogbo said he will not be satisfied until there are either no more cases or an effective drug or vaccine developed.
Mayor Steve Hagerty attributed the decrease in coronavirus cases in Evanston to a public health information campaign, which encouraged residents to abide by the stay-at-home order and work with contact tracers.
“Our strategy to combat COVID-19 has been an information campaign that allows people to know that this is serious. Maintaining six feet, wearing a face covering,washing hands thoroughly,” Hagerty said. “When you look at it per capita, we are doing really well compared to our neighbors.”
Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd), also said the well-staffed and funded Health and Human Services Department and the compliance of Evanston residents are the reasons why the city has been successful in decreasing numbers. Wynne said the city has placed some homeless people in hotels and has tried to provide portable bathrooms and hand washing stations. A medical reserve corps made up of medical professional volunteers has been used frequently, she said.
“I feel so much safer in Illinois (than other states)” Wynne said. “We have heard from people who say they feel safer in Evanston than anywhere else, because everybody is complying (with masks and social distancing.)”
Wynne said when she visits grocery stores in Michigan, hardly anybody wears masks.
Evanston resident Colleen Howard said the spike in cases in states like Texas and Florida concerns her. After seeing people lined up to get into bars in Wrigleyville, she said she is worried Illinois will follow.
Howard, who co-owns photography company Tintype Studio with her wife Di Murphy, said she is not worried about the risk of stores reopening. Small businesses in Evanston have been particularly hard hit by closures. Tintype Studio specializes in youth sports, but with youth sports being canceled, the couple, which has lived in Evanston since the 1980s, has been without a source of income.
Murphy and Howard frequently Zoom call their friends and family because they have friends in their 70s who are at greater risk and cannot meet in person. Howard’s daughter had cancer last May, putting her at high risk and making meeting in person impossible. Overall, Murphy said she has been satisfied with the response of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Hagerty given the circumstances.
“I think they have a Herculean task. Nobody has done this. They don’t have any precedent to work from,” Murphy said. “They are doing the best that they can. Overall I think they have made solid decisions to make people safe. If you look at our numbers, they show that.”
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