Afternoon Edition: March 23, 2021

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

SHARE Afternoon Edition: March 23, 2021

Dr. Allison Arwady speaks to reporters outside the University of Illinois Mile Square Health Center, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Monday, March 22, 2021.

Tyler LaRiviere/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 rainy with a high near 60 degrees and the potential for thunderstorms after 4 p.m. More rain is in the forecast for tonight, which will have a low near 51 degrees. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy and breezy with a chance of rain and a high near 61 degrees.

Top story

Spring looking like fall? COVID-19 cases creeping up, despite vaccine ramp-up: ‘We are worried about this’

COVID-19 cases are ticking back upward across Chicago and the rest of Illinois even as vaccine supply improves, the top doctors from the city and state warned today.

Infections have increased about 23% in Chicago over the past week, mostly among people age 18 to 40, according to city Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

That’s the same trend Arwady’s team saw in October, before a record-breaking resurgence that saw Chicago suffer its worst days of the pandemic.

“We are worried about this,” Arwady said during an online Q&A. “We’ll be in good shape this summer, but I am really worried about this next four to eight weeks. … We are not at a point where we can assume that most people have started to get some protection from the vaccine.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,832 new cases of the disease were diagnosed statewide among 49,739 tests. That lowered the average statewide positivity a notch down to 2.5% compared to a day earlier. But that key indicator of transmission had been at a record low of 2.1% on March 13 — a net increase of 19% over a span of just 10 days.

COVID-19 hospital admissions have crept upward, too, with 1,270 beds occupied last night.

The rising metrics come weeks after public health officials identified three more infectious strains of COVID-19 in the state — and weeks before more business restrictions are set to be loosened by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Read Mitchell Armentrout’s full story here.

More news you need

  1. State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford resigned from Loretto Hospital’s board of trustees yesterday over its handling of revelations that vaccines were given to people not yet eligible for the shot. Ford said that he resigned because he “strongly disagreed with how the reprimand of the hospital leadership was handled.”
  2. An ordinance that would have restricted “house museums” in Chicago’s residential neighborhoods has been withdrawn amid growing opposition from local arts and preservation groups. A day before Ald. Sophia King pulled the proposal, the mayor called it an “overreach.”
  3. Gov. J.B. Pritzker will sign two pieces of legislation into state law today: A cap on payday loan rates and a measure aimed at increasing diversity in the state’s contracting process. The bills, one of which also creates a cannabis equity commission, are part of the Black Caucus’ legislative agenda to address economic inequity.
  4. More than 1,000 prisoners in Illinois are set to be released after a lawsuit settlement aimed at protecting medically vulnerable prisoners from COVID-19. The state’s Department of Corrections will identify medically vulnerable and elderly prisoners eligible for early release or electronic home monitoring.
  5. DoorDash announced today that it will start offering Chicago users same-day delivery on at-home COVID-19 test kits with quick turnaround times for results. Users will then mail their kits directly to a lab, which will provide results in 24-48 hours.
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A bright one

Dishin’ on the Dish — Birria tacos from Birrieria Ocotlan

Ramon Reyes dreamt of opening up a restaurant in Chicago ever since his uncle sent a postcard from the city when he was young.

In 1973, Reyes got his big break after buying a breakfast diner in South Chicago for $5,000. At the time, Reyes’ wife questioned what he planned to do with the newly purchased eatery. He told her he planned to make birria, a traditional Mexican dish normally made with goat meat that can be served as a stew or taco filling, and she just about lost it.

“My mom’s like, ‘Oh s*** ... We’re f*****,’” their son Andres Reyes recalled with a laugh. “Well, I guess my mom was wrong, and my dad was right.”


Birrieria Ocotlan manager Andres Reyes at his family’s restaurant, Birrieria Ocotlan, at 4007 E. 106th St.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

Fast forward nearly 50 years and the Reyes’ family-owned and operated restaurant, Birrieria Ocotlan, is thriving — so much so they opened a second location in 1992 on the Far South Side near the Illinois-Indiana border.

The restaurant’s name is a nod to its signature dish, birria, and the elder Reyes’ hometown of Ocotlan, Mexico.

Reyes believes Birrieria Ocotlan’s birria tacos reign supreme amongst their competitors: “I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but we have the best birria,” he said.

Read Madeline Kenney’s full story as part of our new series looking at Chicagoans’ favorite dishes from the city’s awesome culinary scene.

From the press box

With only a couple days until the NBA trade deadline, the Bulls need to decide what to do with the likes of Thaddeus Young, Lauri Markkanen and other candidates to be dealt. Joe Cowley serves up the latest he’s heard on the team’s plans for this week.

The Cubs officially named right-hander Kyle Hendricks as their Opening Day starter – the second consecutive year that the veteran has gotten the nod.

And Bears kicker Cairo Santos says he was rooting for his agent and the team to find common ground on a long-term deal so he could stay in Chicago, which happened earlier this month. “That’s where my heart is, to remain with those guys,” Santos said.

Your daily question ☕

What’s your favorite family-owned restaurant in Chicago and what’s your go-to meal there?

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

Yesterday, we asked you: What’s one thing that’s really gotten you through the pandemic year? Here’s what some of you said...

“My spouse. We are truly closer and appreciate one another more than ever.” — Shirlee Berman

“A whole lot of avocados, fantastic salsa, and movie time with the kids.” — Robert Lisowski

“Gratitude. Celebrating the small joys that we often overlook due to the design of our fast paced lifestyles.” — Baida Qureshi Torres

“Sewing thousands of masks and overhauling a house. Having a good partner helps a lot, too.” — Madeline Page Hunter Dittmer

“Buying records and books. Also having my best friend, my wife, by my side.” — Steve Zooski

“My daughter and all of our pets. I’m grateful for the extra time I was gifted to spend this time with them.” — Kim LaMendola

“Definitely my faith. Knowing that when I thought I couldn’t handle all the garbage the world was throwing at me, God was telling me He had the stuff I couldn’t handle. To keep moving forward and the assurance that this too will pass.” — Bill Pionke

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

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