Afternoon Edition: Feb. 1, 2021

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

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A bottle of hand sanitizer is available to diners eating inside at Nunzio’s Restaurant on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Loves Park, Ill.

Scott P. Yates/Rockford Register Star via AP

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.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

No more snow is in the forecast — at least for now. This afternoon will be sunny with a high around 31 degrees. Tonight the low will be near 21 degrees. Tomorrow will be partly sunny with a high around 31 degrees.

Top story

Coronavirus metrics fall to lowest point in months as Cook County suburbs move toward limited indoor dining this week

Suburban Cook County will likely be able to resume restricted indoor restaurant and bar service under the state’s coronavirus mitigation plan later this week as state health officials today reported Illinois’ lowest daily caseload and death tallies since the fall surge hit.

The number of new infections is the lowest in nearly four months, and the number of deaths the lowest in nearly three months.

As the preliminary seven-day statewide COVID-19 positivity rate hovered at just under 4%, the lowest since early October, Region 10 — Cook County suburbs — may start to allow limited indoor dining at restaurants and bars as early as tomorrow.

State public health officials today reported 2,312 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 as well as 16 deaths.

That figure is the lowest daily case count since the state saw 1,617 new and probable cases on Oct. 6 and the lowest daily death toll since Nov. 9, when the state reported 14 deaths.

As of last night, 2,387 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of that number, 515 patients were in intensive care units around the state and 278 patients with the virus were on ventilators.

Meanwhile, Region 7 — which includes Will and Kankakee counties — transitioned from the tougher Tier 1 restrictions back to Phase 4 today.

Phase 4 doesn’t mean businesses can fully open without restrictions, but it does grant a path forward for restaurants and bars. Restaurants under Phase 4 can allow indoor dining and drinking as long as tables are sufficiently separated, and parties don’t exceed more than 10 people.

Read more about what Phase 4 entails and which parts of the state are operating under it now.

More news you need

  1. President Joe Biden hopes Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union “can come to common ground soon” in their dispute over reopening schools, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this afternoon. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on MSNBC earlier today that her team is in contact with the Biden administration about the gridlocked talks.
  2. A Worth Township trustee with ties to several Illinois politicians through his commercial printing business admitted to a judge today that he failed to file tax returns in 2017 and 2018 despite significant income those years. The case against Richard J. Lewandowski, 61, is the first public corruption shoe to drop in 2021 following a flurry of cases in 2020.
  3. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was hospitalized in the city last week and underwent what family is describing as minor surgery. The 79-year-old founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition is recovering at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, sources told us.
  4. With local entrepreneurs working to adapt to the changing circumstances of the pandemic, Chicago tech incubator 1871 has shifted on the fly to transition to digital programs while doing more to promote diversity. Read more from our David Roeder on 1871’s efforts.
  5. Chef Bill Kim, best known for local staple Urbanbelly, will bring his pizza venture to the city starting Wednesday. The pop-up, based out of Urbanbelly’s Wicker Park kitchen, will offer Detroit-style pizzas, salads, sandwiches and more for takeout.
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A bright one

Capturing snowy Chicago: 20 photos of the city after the storm

Chicago turned into a winter wonderland over the weekend as a major storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on the city.

By this morning, 11.4 inches of snow had fallen at Midway Airport and 10.8 inches at O’Hare Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

Our photographers were outside to capture the moment, from neighbors helping each other shovel out cars in Pilsen to the kids sledding down a hill in Grant Park.


Emma Penalver catches snow with her tongue at the Buckingham Fountain in the Loop.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

In other photos taken over the weekend, a woman was seen taking photos of her little black dog dressed in a tartan coat, a man rides his bike down a snowy hill, and kids bundled up in big coats play.

Check out many more photos of snowy Chicago from photographers Anthony Vazquez and Pat Nabong here.

From the press box

With Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks in town this week for a pair of games against his old team, the Bulls know they’ll need to be ready for the trademark physicality of Thibs-coached squads. “Every punch that we take, we have to throw three back,” veteran forward Thaddeus Young said.

A couple of Bears nuggets from this morning: The team won’t raise 2021 season ticket prices – even if it ends up hosting a ninth home game – and former NFL safety Mike Adams is joining the coaching staff as an assistant secondary coach.

Patrick Finley also offers up some lessons the Bears can take from the big Lions-Rams trade over the weekend that sent Matthew Stafford to L.A.

Your daily question ☕

Have you found it difficult to get a COVID-19 vaccine? Tell us why.

Reply to this email (please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

On Friday, we asked you: Should CPS remain remote until teachers can get vaccinated, or is it more important that students return to classrooms? Here’s what some of you said...

“Teachers are working harder than ever with virtual learning. Of course it is not ideal, but they shouldn’t have to work in a risky environment when they can do their jobs safely from home.” — Carole Delahunty

“Students need to return to school. The hybrid option needs to start as planned on Monday. Physicians in Chicago have voiced their support and schools are considered low risk.” — Sarah Franklin Kaiser

“I have two children and we have been social distancing since March. Thankfully, my children and I have not gotten COVID. Why, after all this time, would I send my children to school now?” — Twitter user @bluebirdann

“Way more important for students to return to the classroom. More and more studies coming out about how little COVID is actually spread in schools with safety measures in place. I feel like our kids have suffered enough! Please get them back in school!” — Kyle Winston

“What’s the rush to bring kids back in school? We are nowhere near getting a grip on COVID ... Let’s admit the school year was a loss, an unfortunate one! But I want my kids in a safe environment PERIOD! — Twitter user @uLiGiZzZLe

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