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Afternoon Edition: April 13, 2021

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

Federal health authorities on Tuesday recommended a “pause” on the use of J&J’s vaccine while they investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.
AP Photo

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 mostly sunny with a high near 63 degrees, but breezy, with wind gusts as high as 30 mph. Tonight’s low will be around 41 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 57.

Top story

J&J vaccine suspended statewide, but don’t be ‘severely worried’ if you’ve already gotten it, officials say

Use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine came to a grinding halt across Illinois today after federal health authorities recommended a “pause” on its use while experts investigate reports of extremely rare but potentially dangerous blood clots.

The severe side effects were found in only six people among nearly 7 million nationwide who have gotten the single-shot J&J dose, and none of those outliers occurred in Illinois.

But the temporary suspension means many appointments will be canceled and fewer shots will go into Illinois arms for at least the next few days as the Food and Drug Administration reviews the vaccine data.

The more-effective Pfizer and Moderna vaccines still make up the vast majority of vaccine supply in Chicago and the rest of the state, but the “timing is bad” for the Johnson & Johnson setback, according to the city’s top doctor — especially with infection rates crawling back up to troubling highs across the state.

“This is a hit, no doubt about it,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during an online Q&A.

All local vaccine agencies from the Illinois Department of Public Health on down are following the federal directive to shelve J&J vials for now, including Walgreens. Arwady called that “the right decision,” but said it still shouldn’t shake anyone’s confidence in the vaccine.

Read Mitch Dudek and Mitchell Armentrout’s full story to learn more about the recommended “pause” on using Johnson & Johnson vaccines and how local officials are responding.

More news you need

  1. The acting head of the Chicago Fire Department wants to put an end to the treasured but dying tradition of firehouse dogs after one at a South Side firehouse attacked and killed a neighbor’s dog. A CFD spokesperson said the department hopes the dogs will be able to go home with firefighters or paramedics who can “put ’em in a family atmosphere.”
  2. A political operative who worked for indicted Ald. Edward Burke and the late state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty today to concealing material information from the FBI. In doing so, Rudy Acosta Sr., 70, admitted that he made cash payments in order to sway Sandoval, and that he “facilitated bribe payments” to another unnamed official.
  3. The hunt for a Massachusetts man wanted for the February shooting death of Yale University graduate student Kevin Jiang, a former Chicago resident, has gone international. Interpol, at the request of U.S. Marshals, issued a “red notice” asking member countries to arrest Qinxuan Pan, 29, on charges of murder and larceny.
  4. Federal prosecutors have charged an ex-Melrose Park police officer for his role in a gambling ring run by a bookie with mob ties who was sentenced last week to more than two years in prison. John Amabile, 33, is charged with running an illegal sports bookmaking operation.
  5. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said today his staff will work with federal authorities to investigate a breach in his office’s network that officials discovered over the weekend. It’s not immediately known the extent to which the office’s network was compromised, officials said.
  6. The life and death of Chicago high school basketball legend Ben Wilson will be the focus of an episode of the upcoming of the narrative podcast “Death at the Wing,” produced by Adam McKay. The Oscar-winning filmmaker discussed the episode and his love of Chicago youth basketball with our Evan F. Moore.

A bright one

Who rocked ‘The Block’ in HGTV series season finale?

Did Chicago’s embattled “Windy City Rehab” host Alison Victoria score a win on last night’s finale of the HGTV series “Rock the Block?”

As part of a breakdown of the big season finale hosted by Ty Pennington, our Miriam Di Nunzio and Alison Martin looked back at what happened over first five episodes of the show, which gave a group of competing home designers six weeks to add the most value to each of four identical homes on a $225,000 budget.

They also dig into the finale and ultimate winner of the program’s second season.

The designers of HGTV’s “Rock the Block” include: David Bromstad, Tiffany Brooks, Alison Victoria, Brian Kleinschmidt, Jeremiah Brent, Mika Kleinschmidt, Mike Holmes, Nate Berkus and host Ty Pennington.
Mark Hill/HGTV

Last night, three judges arrived to give each home their professional once-over. It also marked the first time the teams got to tour their competitions’ homes. In addition, each team got to use up whatever remaining funds they had in their budgets to give the homes any added oomph they could to sway the judges’ votes.

The judges on tap: former “Rock the Block” champ and host of “Help! I Wrecked My House” Jasmine Roth; and realtors Ken and Anita Corsini of “Flip or Flop: Atlanta,” who are also the builders of the homes and will be selling them when the show is over.

Read Di Nunzio and Martin’s full story (SPOILER WARNING!) for the full breakdown of what happened on Season 2 of “Rock the Block.”

From the press box

St. Joseph, a onetime powerhouse in local high school basketball, announced today that it’s closing at the end of the school year due to factors including the pandemic and declining enrollment. Under legendary coach Gene Pingatore, who died in 2019, the school won two state titles and developed stars including Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas.

The Sky will begin their first season with star player Candace Parker on Saturday, May 15 against Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics.

And our position-by-position breakdown of the Bears’ roster ahead of the draft continues with an offensive line in need of help. A strong class of offensive tackles may tempt the team with its first-round pick, Mark Potash writes.

Your daily question ☕

How has the pandemic affected your relationship with your faith?

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 you: What’s been the hardest part of life in a pandemic for your kids? Here’s what some of you said...

“We did okay. We keep an ‘it is what you make it’ attitude. Harder over winter when we couldn’t get out as much.” — Nicole Boylan

“Not being with friends.” — Michael Young

“Having to meet new teachers through a screen, for a kindergartener, she hasn’t stepped inside her new school. For my older ones, having to rely on me for help.” — @BBeafridaB on Twitter

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