[EDITOR'S NOTE: I will post a Spanish version as soon as it becomes available from the City]
Flattening the Coronavirus Curve: What I’m Asking of Each Evanstonian
We are in this together.
Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The declaration of a pandemic means that there are sustained community-level outbreaks of COVID-19 on different continents. While this is significant, at the time of this letter, we know of no Evanstonians with a confirmed case of this virus. Nonetheless, it seems inevitable that Evanston will eventually have confirmed cases.
This week, NorthShore University HealthSystem admitted a patient who tested positive for COVID-19. While the patient is not an Evanston resident, the City's Health and Human Services Department is conducting an investigation into whether the patient had any interactions within Evanston, and if so, to what degree. (If the degree is deemed significant by public health officials, then those individuals will be asked to self-isolate.) It's my understanding that the person attended church services here within the last two weeks. The church, Unitarian Church of Evanston, has been notified.
Protecting those most at risk.
While we are blessed with some of the world’s best healthcare institutions in Evanston and in the Chicagoland area, their capacity is limited and therefore, we must realize that each of us has a role in the health and well-being of ourselves, families, friends, and community.
This pandemic is particularly dangerous to our seniors and those with compromised immune systems or other underlying conditions. With no vaccine reportedly available for at least a year, governments at all levels are adopting unified actions to slow the spread of the virus. I know news like this is never easy to receive, but if I have learned anything about Evanston, it’s that despite our differences, in times like these we come together, support one another, and understand that difficult and unpleasant decisions must be made.
What Evanston is doing.
The current national strategy that we are undertaking in Evanston is to slow the spread of the virus so that our healthcare system does not become overwhelmed. The chart below, adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) / The Economist, illustrates the strategy.
The graphic shows how the implementation of social distancing and other protective actions can slow the spread of a novel disease, like COVID-19, and ensure the demand on the medical system is balanced over time.
If we make no changes to our daily lives, the virus may overwhelm our healthcare system, leaving doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in a dire situation, coupled with the potential for supply shortages. I know that may seem overblown in a community with no known cases yet, but virtually all medical professionals concur that it will spread and that these measures must be taken by all of us, to protect all of us.
As a precautionary measure, the City has postponed the State of the City Luncheon and Robert Crown Community Center Open House scheduled for this weekend. In addition, to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 to the senior population, all senior classes, programs and activities at the Levy Senior Center have been canceled until further notice. Senior meals at the Levy and Fleetwood-Jourdain centers will be offered in to-go containers only.
The City is determining how best to implement social distancing measures at City events and meetings, and will be encouraging residents to participate online or on City television when possible. As the situation evolves, the City will evaluate events and meetings to determine when and how they will proceed, and will communicate this information to the public.
Over time, we believe greater levels of testing will reduce ambiguity around exposure, treatment options will increase positive outcomes for those who do have complications, and vaccines will become available to reduce the threat.
A whole community response.
Each of us needs to do what we can to keep ourselves and our fellow Evanstonians healthy. We need the leaders of all organizations in our City to make sound, informed decisions based on the mitigation strategy communicated by the experts at the CDC and IDPH to protect the most at-risk population.
It is now prudent to take reasonable steps to avoid, postpone or cancel large non-essential events and socially distance ourselves in public. I ask that we all practice patience, understanding, and empathy at this time, for there is no one unaffected by these disruptions.
We need to realize that our healthcare system will be taxed. We should ask ourselves, “What can I do to reduce the stress on the system?” (Hint: good hygiene, social distancing, get a flu shot – not to protect you from COVID-19 but to reduce the likelihood you would need medical care). If you're the leader of an organization in Evanston, I expect your organization will follow the directives of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Stop Spread of Germs (CDC)
What you can do.
Each of us needs to do what we can to keep ourselves and our fellow Evanstonians healthy. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “I’m young, I’m healthy, I don’t need to worry.” Statistically, that’s true. But I want you to think about your grandparents, parents, guardians, beloved aunt or uncle, neighbor, or anyone over the age of 60; those most at risk, along with others whose immune or respiratory system is compromised.
In addition to practicing good hygiene (washing those hands for 20 seconds with soap and covering coughs and sneezes), if we are exposed to someone who develops the virus we must take proactive measures to quarantine (self-isolate) ourselves from others for 14 days.
You can also help protect the health and well-being of our community by joining the Evanston Medical Reserve Corps. The Corps is a volunteer group of medical and non-medical professionals who assist the Health and Human Services Department and first responders.
If you’re interested in joining, please email EvanstonMRC@cityofevanston.org.
Evanston is resilient.
In the coming days and weeks we will learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 on our community. But know this: Our best medical minds across the nation are working to address the challenges, the Evanston government is fully integrated and responding to the threat, and the disruptions and protective actions we are taking are in direct response to the information known at this time and will not persist forever.
Please understand that if we successfully adopt the strategy above, we will contribute to “flattening the curve.” As a result, lives in our community for those most at-risk will be saved from illness or more serious complications. While we may not know every person saved, realize they could be our parents, grandparents, child, friend, or neighbor.
Over time, we will better understand this virus and the disruptions caused by COVID-19. We will continue to communicate substantive updates. In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about COVID-19 and the City's response, please join me and the City's Health and Human Services Director, Ike Ogbo, tomorrow at 2 p.m. for a Facebook Live Q&A.
Thank you for doing your part to flatten the curve.
Stephen H. Hagerty
Mayor, City of Evanston
Facebook Live question form
City FB page