Illinois’ new public health leader faces big challenges, an Oak Park native sets sail and more in your Chicago news roundup

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

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, looks on as Dr. Sameer Vohra, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, speaks Thursday during a news conference at the Chicago Family Health Center on the South Side.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, looks on as Dr. Sameer Vohra, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, speaks today during a news conference at the Chicago Family Health Center on the South Side.

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.

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers and a high near 81 degrees. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low near 65. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a high near 85.

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Afternoon Edition
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Top story

New Illinois public health director takes helm as COVID rebounds, monkeypox rises and abortion rights shrink

Confronted with an ongoing pandemic, an emerging viral outbreak and bans on abortion in neighboring states, Illinois’ new top doctor today acknowledged “the weight of these challenges” in his first week on the job — but vowed to guide residents through “a moment where it is just hard to feel protected.”

Dr. Sameer Vohra, who officially took his post as director of the Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his appointment last month, said the agency will face those challenges with “one overarching and all-encompassing goal: to prevent and protect the public from disease and injury.”

“We are living in a moment where it is just hard to feel protected,” Vohra said during his first public appearance at a South Side news conference alongside the governor. “We are two and a half years since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, and although we are learning to live with the virus, my heart continues to mourn and grieve for the families of the 34,388 Illinoisans we have lost to this terrible disease.

“Beyond other emerging illnesses like monkeypox, we are challenged with an epidemic of gun violence, a mental health crisis and a growing national threat to the protection of reproductive rights,” said Vohra, who’s the founding chair of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Department of Population Science and Policy. “It’s impossible not to feel the weight of these challenges.”

“Under my leadership, the Department of Public Health will serve the people of Illinois as your resource and as your guide, providing critical information and offering services for individuals and families that will help them lead the healthiest and most productive lives,” Vohra said.

Mitchell Armentrouthas more on Vohra here.

More news you need

  1. A 17-year-old boy has been charged with fatally shooting a man in Logan Square in January. The teen was arrested yesterday and charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 9 killing of Donovan Duffy.
  2. There’s a parade of resignations and retirements from the Chicago City Council because it’s “not a good place to work these days,” Zoning Committee Chairman Tom Tunney told our Fran Spielman. Tunney, a key member of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s leadership team, said he may join the exodus himself.
  3. A former Cook County Assessor’s Office employee agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors today as he admitted helping lower taxes on certain properties by at least $1 million in exchange for benefits like home improvements. Lavdim Memisovski, 43, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count for conduct that occurred between 2016 and July 2018.
  4. Loved ones and former colleagues are mourning the loss of Myrna Salazar, who co-founded the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance and served as its executive director. Salazar, 75, died was a staunch advocate for equity and representation of Latino artists on Chicago’s stages.
  5. Shoppers in Illinois looking to stock up on school supplies, clothing and other back-to-school gear can look forward to saving a bit on sales tax starting tomorrow. The state’s sales-tax holiday on certain school-related items, which applies to all retailers, will run until Aug. 14.
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A bright one

Oak Park native with visual impairment to compete in the U.S. Para Sailing Championship

When Jasmin Washington sets sail at the Independence Cup on Friday — a regatta for sailors with disabilities at Burnham Harbor — the 22-year-old Oak Park native hopes to score yet another first-place finish.

“I stick to the motto that I can do anything sighted people can do, I just need to modify it a bit,” said Washington, who is visually impaired.

Earlier this summer, Washington and her team took first place at the Robie Pierce Regatta in Rye, New York.

Jasmin Washington on a boat in a striped shirt and blue life vest

Jasmin Washington says she hopes to go pro in competitive sailing and participate in the Paralympics or Blind Sailing World Championship.

Provided

Washington will compete in the doublehanded division race with her teammate, Bonnie Everhart of Arlington Heights, who sail for the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation. They’ll be piloting a 20-foot adaptive boat that includes rebound steering, which allows blind sailors set a straight course on the open water by using bungee cords and other devices to let a sailor feel through tension how far off center they’re steering.

Washington says she’s always been drawn to boats, but it was a chance encounter in 2017 at the Jackson Park Outer Harbor that got her into competitive sailing. She was fishing with her uncle when she got to talking with members of the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation, which provides sailing lessons to people with disabilities.

Washington said she hopes to get good enough one day to compete at a pro level in the sport and eventually learn to command sailboats that have not been adapted for people with disabilities.

Jordan Perkinshas more with Washington here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

Where’s the best place to travel for a summer weekend getaway from the city? Tell us why.

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

Yesterday, we asked you: What do you love about living in Chicago?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Almost everything. The food is great, the blues clubs are fantastic. We have Lake Michigan and some of the best hotels in the world. My hometown.” —Rita Carthans

“Chicago is very, very beautiful! The architecture here is amazing! The Chicago skyline is amazing! Our neighborhood parks and our Lakefront are amazing! Our museums, art galleries, music venues and cultural activities are amazing! And our food — amazing! — Beatrice C. Franklin

“I love the culture, the food, various activities and the different walks of life.” —Maurice Snell

“It is a melting pot! So many different cultures all living together. We have fabulous parks, and beaches. A free zoo. Many styles of architecture. We have alleys, so we don’t have to have garbage in front of our homes. We have an excellent transit system. We have a reliable source of fresh water. There is so much more positive than negative!” —Patricia McDonald

“The Lakeshore, the diversity, the neighborhoods and the opportunities it offers my children.” —Andrew Bell

“I love the energy here. The very many small and large businesses everywhere. The inspirational architecture. The delicious food. The diversity! The people. The CTA and metra. The sports! The feeling that you can be anyone or anything that you want to be.”— Julia Margaret

“Always something and anything to do. You get the best of the entire universe in one city.”—Kevin Brewer

“The culture, the South Side, the good people and the beautiful buildings each with a story to tell!” —Darryl Cotton

“I love the Lakefront It’s very soothing.” —Yoshinda Mitchell

“Definitely the people — everyone always seems to be so kind and caring and helpful.” —William Brian

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

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