Afternoon Edition: Feb. 15, 2021

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

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Rev. Robert Biekman credits his recovery from COVID to the fact he had lost 170 pounds before catching it.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/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.

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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.

This afternoon will be snowy, with 2 to 4 inches expected by nightfall, and a high near 12 degrees. The snow will get heavier tonight; forecasters predict we could get another 6 to 10 inches of snow by tomorrow morning. More snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, along with a high near 18 degrees.

Top story

COVID a killer for the obese: ‘Like pouring gasoline on top of a fire’

When the Rev. Robert Biekman was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month, he couldn’t help but think about what would have happened if he had still weighed more than 360 pounds — realizing how his condition four years ago would have hurt his ability to fight the virus and potentially cost him his life.

“If I was as big as I was, this thing would’ve probably taken me out,” said Biekman, 61, who after a 2017 surgery, change in diet and a commitment to run 5 miles every other day now keeps his weight around 190 pounds or less. He recovered from the virus and now tests negative.

Obesity is a killer in Black communities, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and all causes of death. It’s among the factors making heart disease the No. 1 cause of death among Black men in the U.S.

The pandemic exposed another deadly threat from obesity: a higher risk of complications or death from COVID-19.

After old age, underlying health conditions often spurred by being overweight or obese contribute the most to complications and death in COVID patients, U.S. health officials say. Obesity can triple the risk of being hospitalized with COVID and the risk of death rises with higher measures of body fat. The reasons range from poor lung function to suppressed immune systems from related health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Cook County Medical Examiner records list obesity as a contributing cause for 760 COVID deaths through January 10, or about 1 in 11 of the more than 8,500 deaths for that period.

The data also reveals a trend among younger people who have died. Those who are 40 or under account for only 2.5% of COVID deaths. However, almost 40% of the death records for that group indicate obesity was a contributing cause of death.

Read Brett Chase’s full story here.

More news you need

  1. Chicago has sent out hundreds of snowplows as the city braces for a foot — and possibly more — of fallen snow by tomorrow. The Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed 287 snow vehicles to respond to the winter storm.
  2. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who campaigned as a staunch proponent of an elected school board, told the New York Times that Chicago Public Schools would “never have opened without mayoral control.” The interview is fueling speculation about whether she will ever deliver on that campaign promise.
  3. Now that vaccines are offering hope for subduing the pandemic, office workers who haven’t seen their desks in months are wondering: Once there’s a general return to work, how safe will that place be? Some landlords, worried about unused space, are taking extra, and sometimes expensive, steps to assure tenants about cleanliness.
  4. For Chicago film writers Danny Kravitz and Chris Charles, movie star Liam Neeson was a part of their “dream cast” for “The Marksman,” one of the winter’s biggest box-office hits. They say the action hero connected with the script because of his own immigrant experience.
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A bright one

Embrace the snow by creating a snowman for the Sun-Times’ newest student art contest

It’s time to celebrate, rather than rue, the snow.

We’re inviting kids from elementary age through high school anywhere in the city of Chicago or the suburbs to show us your creative best by building a snowman or drawing or painting one, then emailing it to us with your name, age, grade, school and hometown or neighborhood.

It’s for our newest art contest, part of what we call The Imagination Project — a chance for students to put their artistic talents to work during the coronavirus pandemic.


Find the details on how to enter your snowman creation in The Imagination Project at

Besides having a little fun, you might also get some recognition. We’ll choose at least three winners in each of three age categories — elementary school, middle school and high school — and publish your work.

The Imagination Project began last April by asking for drawings or paintings on the theme of “Brighter Days.” Later came a short story contest with plots based on heroism and a contest for the best sidewalk and driveway chalk art.

Get more information on the contest here.

From the press box

Chicago’s top high school basketball teams won’t be able to play for a state championship this year, but eight of the area’s top teams will have something to aim for in a local postseason tournament.

New Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said today he expects that nose tackle Eddie Goldman will be back next season. Goldman opted out of last season because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Despite splitting its weekend series against Drake, Loyola remained in the AP Top 25. Illinois moved up to No. 5 in this week’s poll.

And set your DVRs, White Sox fans. The team has released its spring training broadcast schedule.

Your daily question ☕

How did you spend your snowy long weekend?

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

Friday, we asked you: What are you getting your loved ones for Valentine’s Day this year? Here’s what some of you said…

“I gave my mom Fannie May chocolate candy, a card and a balloon.” — Denise Price

“Slippers, chocolate, fancy lip balm… they are 8 and 10-year-old girls so it’s not too complicated. My husband got me flowers, and I bought some steaks to make for dinner on Sunday.” — Chris Jacobs Clark

“Paying for my 19-year-old daughter’s passport.” — Shanel Ware

“Got my fiance a ‘Blood Fire Death’ Bathory album themed shirt. Bathory is our favorite black metal band.” — Jason Rhoten

“Lottery tickets and a mask that says ‘Grumpy Old Guy.’” — Adrienne Mundro

“A new snow shovel.” — Geri Fenger

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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