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Afternoon Edition: March 24, 2020

Today’s update is a 4-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Matt Greif, left, and Gregg Falberg, uses a alcohol proof meter, to check the proof of a batch of alcohol that’s being produced by 28 Mile Vodka for use as hand sanitizer, Monday, March 23, 2020, in Highwood Ill. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 4-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with a high near 46 degrees. Tonight’s low will be 34 degrees. We’ll get a beautiful spring day tomorrow: partly sunny with a high near 60 degrees.

Top story

Highwood distillery retools in coronavirus crisis to make desperately needed hand sanitizers

Monday morning, Eric Falberg, a co-owner of the 28 Mile Distilling Co. in Highwood, was stirring a vat of mash, destined to become desperately needed hand sanitizer, with demand soaring as the coronavirus pandemic continues to explode.

When 28 Mile opened last summer in the northern suburb, the intended use of the gleaming stainless steel tanks and stills were to make vodka, gin and bourbon.

That business model changed in a snap with orders to shut down and stay-at-home as coronavirus cases grew in Illinois and across the nation. With the pandemic, it has been near impossible to find hand-sanitizing products to buy.

Distilling is distilling, it turns out, whether for spirits or sanitizers.

To address the emergency need for hand sanitizers, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — the agency regulating distilled spirits makers — issued an emergency order allowing companies already holding permits to “immediately” start producing hand sanitizers through June 30.

Falberg and his partners, his brother Gregg and Matt Greif, the head distiller, decided to jump into the hand sanitizer business. And so the 28 Mile Hand Sanitizer was born, financed with about $50,000 from the partners.

“Think about it: we’re in war right now with the virus,” Falberg said. Manufacturers have to be nimble. “We have to think like that.”

Yesterday, the mash was a mix of corn and barley. Today, it likely could be something else. “We are distilling everything we have,” Falberg said.

Even when the coronavirus crisis winds down, a demand for hand sanitizers is likely to remain because a germ wary public will get in the habit of routinely using the product.

The intent now is to make hand sanitizers a permanent part of the business, Falberg said, since their facility has enough room to house their liquor and now sanitizer products.

Read the full story from Lynn Sweet.

More news you need

  1. A former nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital filed a lawsuit alleging she was fired after warning coworkers that masks the hospital provided did not adequately protect staff against COVID-19. Carly Behm details what’s in the lawsuit.
  2. Mayor Lightfoot and other mayors penned a letter to Chief Criminal Court Judge Leroy Martin in response to his decision to review of thousands of criminal cases with a goal of reducing the number of inmates in jail during the pandemic. Here’s what they’re asking for.
  3. Workers laid off temporarily due to the coronavirus shutdown — and even parents caring for children home from school — can qualify for unemployment benefits under the state’s recently adopted emergency rules. Here’s how to apply.
  4. Jewel-Osco is adding plexiglass sneeze guards at its registers, service desks and pharmacy stands to protect employees and customers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Check out what they look like in our daily coronavirus live blog.

A bright one

It’s quite likely you’re working from home these days, but you can still escape to “The Office” — on Netflix, Comedy Central and Cozi TV.

And today’s a great day to start watching the series again from episode 1: It’s the 15th anniversary of the show’s premiere (March 24, 2005). On that day, NBC launched the American workplace mockumentary with a cast of mostly unknown actors as the employees of a mid-sized paper company called Dunder-Mifflin.

Steve Carell (right) starred on the first seven seasons of “The Office” as buffoonish boss Michael Scott, alongside right-hand man Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). | Provided

Even though ratings were never really that great, the show became a critical and cult favorite — and has actually grown in popularity since going off the air. In 2018, it was by far the most watched show on Netflix with a reported 52 million minutes streamed — some 20 million more minutes than “Friends.“

Count critic Richard Roeper among those who were late to the party but now want it to go on forever, a la Michael Scott at “Café Disco.”

Some of his favorite episodes include “The Dundies,” “Dinner Party” and “Deposition.” But they’re all great, he would tell you, thanks to the “razor-sharp writing, expertly conceived story lines and brilliant performances.”

Read Richard Roeper’s ranking of his top 10 episodes and see if your favorites made the list.

From the press box

While the Bulls’ season is up in the air, Joe Cowley breaks down each player’s past and future. Next up is Coby White, who Cowley says will be the leader of this team in two years.

The International Olympic Committee has delayed the 2020 Summer Olympics to next year as expected. It’s better late than never by the money-grubbing IOC, Rick Morrissey writes.

Your daily question ☕

In honor of the 15th anniversary of “The Office” premiere, we want to know: what’s your favorite episode?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked: What are the top three bars you missed sitting at over the weekend? Here’s what some Sun-Times journalists said:

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