Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s office
In his final community forum, Mayor Steve Hagerty lauded the efforts of Evanston’s Public Health Department and residents’ compliance in fighting COVID-19 at Thursday’s virtual Coronavirus Q&A.
Hagerty, city officials and volunteers answered questions sent in before the event by members of the community. From the outset Evanston’s mayor said he was proud of how the city handled the virus.
“Evanston is comparatively doing much better than a lot of our neighbors,” Hagerty said. “There is a lot to be proud of in a very difficult time. In Evanston, we did contact tracing from day one. Our numbers are attributed to that.”
Every resident age 65 and over has received at least one dose, and 92.4 percent are fully vaccinated. Hagerty said Ike Ogbo, director of Health and Human Services, led a city effort to vaccinate the most vulnerable populations throughout the community, including the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions.
Evanston still reports significantly lower cases per capita than Skokie, Cook County, Chicago and Illinois. However, the city still recommends wearing masks indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible, even for those who have been vaccinated.
Of the eligible population, 78 percent of Evanston residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the city.
Hagerty emphasized that Evanston’s response to the pandemic could not have happened without the help of many volunteers. He highlighted the Community Emergency Response Team, whose members aided with contact tracing and informed people about their second dose and its potential side effects.
Additionally, around 90 volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps aided with vaccination efforts.
Elizabeth Hicks, a CERT member and research student, said she volunteered her time because she wanted to do her part during a health emergency. Peter Gann, an MRC member and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, said civic duty drives volunteers like himself.
“It feels like a privilege as well as a responsibility to step up,” Gann said. “You just want to do whatever can be helpful. The process used by the city to conduct vaccinations was far more organized. I feel like we should be proud. But it’s not over.”
While city officials offered cautious optimism, they did acknowledge a spike among younger people. According to Public Health Manager Greg Olsen, 20- and 30-year-olds make up 60 to 75 percent of all cases in Evanston.
The health department is now targeting younger individuals to get vaccinated and practice social distancing as much as possible.
Hagerty awarded the city’s Health and Human Services department a Key to the City, which is the “highest honor the Mayor can bestow on a resident or organization,” Hagerty told The Daily in an email.
“It was the only thing I could think of that in a prominent way I could offer a really big thank you to the incredible amount of work that our city staff led by Ike Ogbo and (Olson) have done. It’s been remarkable,” Hagerty said during the event.
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