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Afternoon Edition: Dec. 30, 2021

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady speaks during a press conference in November.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a high near 37 degrees. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a low around 31. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy with a high near 43.

Top story

CPS to remain in-person after holiday break

Chicago Public Schools will remain in-person after the holiday break despite COVID-19 cases “breaking records” in the city, Chicago’s top health official said today.

The announcement was made as the Omicron variant has become more dominant over the last few weeks.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said schools are “a good place for children to be at with precautions” and encouraged parents get their children vaccinated, have them wear a well-fitted mask. But, she added, if a child develops COVID-19 symptoms — even if they’ve recently tested negative — keep them home.

Arwady delivered her comments this afternoon in an effort to ease the concerns of parents as their children gear up to return to the classroom next week. She was joined CPS CEO Pedro Martinez.

Martinez said there is little evidence to suggest students are in danger while at school and they are, in fact, at greater risk outside of school.

The district has sent COVID-19 tests out to parents. Those tests originally were to be returned on Tuesday. But the deadline was extended after photos were posted online of returned tests piling up outside FedEx drop-off boxes. On its website, the Chicago Teachers Union called the pile-up a “bureaucratic failure and chaos.”

During the winter break, the district has been sending messages to parents urging them to get their children tested before school resumes Jan. 3. The messages come as the city and state are dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“The best form of protection from COVID is being vaccinated,” according to a CPS statement earlier this week. “More than 90% of our staff are now vaccinated, and we continue to push the importance of vaccines within our school communities.

Manny Ramos has the full story here.

More news you need

  1. Bradley Police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic, who was fatally shot last night while responding to a call at a suburban motel, “always aimed to be a cop to make a difference,” her niece told our Emmanuel Camarillo earlier today. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the gunman who killed Rittmanic and wounded her partner.
  2. The current pandemic surge spurred by the holidays and the Omicron variant continues to worsen as Illinois health officials reported a record-shattering 30,386 new cases today. The figure, nearly 9,000 higher than the last record set on Christmas Eve, almost doubles the high-water mark from last fall’s outbreak.
  3. Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton announced today that she’s tested positive for COVID-19. Stratton, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, said she’s experiencing only mild symptoms from the virus.
  4. In other news involving the virus and politics, Illinois state lawmakers will cut short their January legislative session and meet for just one day next week due to the pandemic. Other than a Jan. 5 meeting that’s still got the green light, the remaining session days will likely be cancelled.

A bright one

Fish of the Year: Saga of record bighead carp bests other worthy candidates around Chicago fishing

Jarrett Knize’s bighead carp of 72 pounds, 9 ounces takes Fish of the Year. But there was worthy competition.

‘‘I’m grateful for all the people who made it fun,’’ Knize said Monday. ‘‘You can’t land and certify an almost 73-pound fish in Chicago without a lot of help.’’

On Nov. 8, with girlfriend Marina Ungaretti out of town, Knize went bass fishing on the Humboldt Park lagoon. That afternoon turned into a journey into night.

‘‘The [largemouth bass] I caught 45 minutes earlier was deeper than I normally catch them,’’ Knize said shortly after his catch. ‘‘If I hadn’t caught that one, I would not have made the cast that caught this fish.’’

Jarrett Knize wheeling his Illinois-record bighead carp across North Avenue (looking west) toward home.
Daisy Schultz

He caught the bighead on a lipless crankbait, and an epic battle ensued. Neighbor Holden Head circled from the other side to meet him. After a half-hour, Knize sent Head to fetch Knize’s big salmon net.

Knize realized he needed something to lug the invasive carp after it was landed. Head brought back a shopping cart Knize had found in an alley. Neighbor Daisy Schultz took an epic photo of Knize wheeling it across North Avenue.

That began the quest to certify it. He called Fish Tech in Morton Grove, which sent him to Park Bait at Montrose Harbor, where Cory Gecht kept the shop open late. But it was heavier than the certified scale there.

Read Dale Bowman’s full story on the biggest catch of 2021 here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2022?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What has getting tested for COVID in Chicago been like for you? Here’s what some of you said...

“It’s a nightmare standing outside to wait for rapid covid tests. I waited an hour and a half this morning, with a 102-degree fever, because everywhere around me is booked.” — Stephanie Ann

“Well, considering you can’t get an appointment at CVS, Walgreens, or the immediate care clinics for the rest of the week, at least, and these ‘free’ pop up testing places are a four-hour wait with an appointment, only to find out there is $195 lab fee, I would say that Illinois’ preparation of this surge is horrendous, just sayin.” — Jessica Lynn

“I’ve been taking home tests. Feels a lot like taking a pregnancy test except you are not hoping for that second pink line.” — Erica Salem

“Took a PCR test at 8:15 this morning at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and had the results at 3:30 this afternoon.” — Mary O’Malley

“Still waiting for results from PCR test I took LAST Tuesday. Eight days now.” — Sam O’Rama

“I have found that sticking to a reliable testing site has proven to be more accurate. Some places are unreliable and very unprofessional. Taking a test and never receiving the results. Workers are not trained properly at these pop ups. Which is an injustice in itself with so many needing to be tested.” — Terrell Lahoma Bowman

“The testing line at South Suburban College looked forever, but they were extremely efficient, organized, and quick with the process. Done within 15 minutes.” — George Hillard

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