Afternoon Edition: March 7, 2022

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

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A woman adjusts a girl’s face mask as they walk to George B. Armstrong International Studies Elementary School in the spring of 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/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 mostly cloudy with a high near 35 degrees and a slight chance of more rain and snow showers after some parts of the Chicago area saw nearly 3 inches of snow today. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a low around 21. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 42.

Top story

CPS ends mask mandate

Chicago Public Schools is dropping its mask mandate next Monday, officials announced, citing a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks while breaking an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union to maintain universal masking through the end of the school year.

The change comes as nearly all other Illinois school districts have switched to mask-optional policies this month, and as political pressure mounts against pandemic restrictions despite wide disparities in vaccination rates between communities.

CPS leaders and Board of Education members are only 10 days removed from reaffirming their commitment to masks, but that stance changed after new federal guidance softened recommendations for masks in schools and it also became clear they would face a court challenge this week.

“CPS was one of the first to require universal masking in schools, and we would not be moving to a mask-optional model unless the data and our public health experts indicated that it is safe for our school communities,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement Monday. “We will support our staff and students as we enter this new phase in the pandemic and continue to move forward together.”

District officials said student vaccination rates are now near the national average for the 12-17 age group and above average for the 5-11 range. And the city’s COVID-19 metrics are at their lowest since last July — Chicago is averaging 191 cases and 16 hospitalizations per day over the past week with 0.8% positivity, according to city records. At CPS, 141 students and 53 adults tested positive last week out of a total population of about 272,000 kids and 30,000 staff.

Still, only 49% of all CPS students are fully vaccinated. And at nearly 50 schools, 10% of students or less are fully vaccinated as of late last month, according to a WBEZ analysis of vaccination data for the district’s nearly 650 schools.

Nader Issa has more on CTU’s expected response and what comes next for CPS schools.

More news you need

  1. An 18-year-old Chicago man has been charged with robbing and fatally stabbing a beloved Hyde Park bartender who moved to the city from Italy seven years ago. On Sunday, a Cook County judge ordered the man held without bail for the murder of Diego Damis, Cindy Hernandez reports.
  2. Police in southwest suburban Burr Ridge are searching for two drivers who fatally struck a 16-year-old boy Saturday evening and continued without stopping. Get more info on the vehicles authorities are searching for here.
  3. No one was injured in a fire this morning at a restaurant in Calumet Heights on the South Side, authorities say. Crews responded around 6 a.m. to a fire at Nipsey’s Restaurant and Lounge, where they extinguished the fire about an hour later.
  4. In an encouraging update on Kayden Swann, a 2-year-old boy who was shot while in a car on Lake Shore Drive last year, our Stefano Esposito reports that Kayden’s recovery has been going well at home with his family. Doctors at the time “told me [Kayden] was going to have brain damage, but there’s nothing wrong with him,” Kayden’s mother, Jalisa Hooks, told Esposito during a recent visit.
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A bright one

‘Cold day, but warm hearts’ — Lightfoot leads thousands diving into Lake Michigan for Polar Plunge

Mayor Lori Lightfoot led the charge yesterday as thousands bore frigid temperatures and unforgiving winds while streaming into Lake Michigan for the return of the Polar Plunge.

“Cold day, but warm hearts,” Lightfoot said to the crowd gathered at North Avenue Beach. “Warm hearts for our athletes, for their families and the life-changing experiences that Special Olympics has been giving to residents of the city for decades and decades to come.”

Carolyn Daley, niece of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and the president of Special Olympics Chicago and Special Children’s Charities, noted that roughly 4,000 plungers had signed up for the Chicago event, which benefits those causes.

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Chicago’s Polar Plunge returned to North Avenue Beach on Sunday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Besides North Avenue Beach, there were people taking the plunge at 24 other locations throughout Illinois. By Sunday morning, Carolyn Daley said, $1.6 million already had been raised this year.

In 2020, the Polar Plunge was one of the last major events the city hosted before the COVID-19 outbreak brought life to a standstill. Last year’s event was held virtually due to the pandemic, though some participants still took a dip in Lake Michigan.

Sunday marked a jovial return to form.

Check out more pictures of people bearing the freezing temps for the Plunge here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

Now that the weather’s (slowly) getting nicer, what’s a home improvement or repair project you’re excited to tackle this year?

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

On Friday, we asked you: How will you be spending Saturday’s bout of warm weather? The 60-plus degree temps may have been short lived, but here’s how some of you answered...

“Get the fire pit setup, season the black stone, and grill out!” — Adam Fryer

“Doing what a Chicagoan would do - grilling!” — Jaime Velasquez

“Walking in the warm, fresh air!” — Jo Ann Fields

“Cleaning garden beds!” — Sue Pieplow

“Sit on the new wraparound deck at the daughter’s house and watch the Fox River’s ice break up and crash into itself.” — Tom Roels

“Watching college baseball, drinking beer and then hit da beach.” — Rueben Ingram

“Walking in the Morton Arboretum, one of the Chicago area’s gems.” — Craig Barner

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