Evanston Township High School has seen as many new COVID-19 cases in the first two days this week than it has over the previous four months of school.

While the numbers are still relatively small in the 3,700-student building, the increase was concerning enough for District 202 to send emails to staff and families, and also post information on the ETHS website.

According to those messages, 53 positive COVID cases were reported on Dec. 13 and 14. That compares to 52 cases from the first day of school in August up through Dec. 10.

ETHS also says there is currently one “core group outbreak, composed of a sports team.” While the messages do not specify which team, an email to Wildkit sports boosters Tuesday afternoon from Athletic Director Chris Livatino says, “We are disappointed that our Girls Basketball game [at New Trier on Thursday] will need to be rescheduled to a later date due to COVID protocols.”

Update 4:55 p.m.: Livatino has just announced that ETHS will not be participating in either the boys or girls basketball games at New Trier Thursday night.

Tickets already purchased can be refunded by returning them to staff in the ETHS Athletic Office on Thursday between 8:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. for ETHS students and staff and 3:45-6:30 p.m. for our community.

New Trier will follow its original schedule with girls basketball versus Lincoln Park at 5:45 p.m. and the boys game versus Lake Zurich at 7:30 p.m.

According to District 202, a core group “means only those individuals who were together during an exposure period,” such as a specific classroom, sports team, or performing arts ensemble, among other possibilities. The district says a core outbreak must have at least three cases within the group.

ETHS says it will contact students and families “when cases are identified as part of their core.”

Update 6:10 p.m.: The student theatrical YAMO show, scheduled for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, has also been canceled. The cancellations are noted in the performing arts calendar, with no reason given.

Evanston Now has asked District 65 why the performances are off, but we have not gotten an answer. However, two sources tell us that the reason is COVID. It’s unclear if too many YAMO students actually have the virus, or if there is just a small number, but many others involved with the shows are unvaccinated and have quarantine due to exposure.”

The same principle, actually infected vs. exposed but not vaccinated, can also impact any extracurricular activity where a specific number of people are needed for the event to take place.

In the staff memo, Associate Principal Taya Kinzie also tells teachers that last night, each classroom was being given a box of masks “as an additional support.” Mask-wearing is required in the ETHS building.

The new COVID uptick comes despite Evanston being one of the most highly vaccinated communities in the state, and probably in the nation.

According to ETHS, 94% of staff have provided proof of vaccination. For students, it’s 93%.

Evanston’s most recent COVID positivity rate is 1.85%.

It was not stated how many of the 53 new cases were among the unvaccinated, nor if any of the infections were breakthrough cases among those who have received COVID shots.

The president of the Teachers Council,the teachers union, Rick Cardis, tells Evanston Now, “People are very concerned, students and staff alike, as to how much numbers have gone up this week.”

However, school will remain in session, in-person. The ETHS messages say that based on current health agency guidelines, “ETHS is not closing or shutting down.”

Plus, the messages add, “a remote learning option is not available.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.