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chicago vaccine

Dr. Marina Del Rios, from University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, receives Chicago’s first COVID-19 vaccination from Dr. Nikhila Juvvadi on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, at Loretto Hospital, a 122-bed medical facility in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago.

Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Vaccinations Begin In Chicago

Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and I still think about how Northwestern University is more northeast than Northeastern Illinois University. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. The first COVID-19 vaccinations in Chicago took place today

The local fight against COVID-19 entered a new phase today as five frontline medical workers received Pfizer’s vaccines at Loretto Hospital in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, where the pandemic has hit particularly hard.

“What we just witnessed is history in the making,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Dr. Marina Del Rios with the University of Illinois health system was the first person in Chicago to receive the vaccine.

Elizabeth and Alan Van Opstal, also doctors, are scheduled to get the COVID-19 vaccine through their hospitals on Wednesday, reports WBEZ’s Kristen Schorsch.

“I just cried,” Dr. Elizabeth Van Opstal said when she found out that her husband was among the first in line. “I just have been worried about him for so long.” [WBEZ]

Illinois officials today reported 117 deaths and 7,359 new cases. Over the last seven days, the state has seen an average of 146 deaths per day, up 42% from the average two weeks ago. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, a vaccine from drugmaker Moderna is especially effective in preventing severe disease, according to an analysis released today by the Food and Drug Administration. The news comes two days before an FDA advisory panel will discuss whether to recommend the vaccine for emergency approval. [NPR]

2. Congressional leaders meet on economic relief and government funding

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met late this afternoon, a potential sign that negotiations are reaching a new level of seriousness.

The meeting comes as Congress must pass a spending bill by the end of the week in order to avoid a government shutdown. It also comes as pressure reaches a crescendo for lawmakers to reach a deal on providing more economic relief as 12 million Americans could soon lose their jobless benefits. [CNBC]

Meanwhile, McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, today congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for their victory.

McConnell’s comments mark a shift from President Donald Trump, who continues to peddle baseless claims of widespread voting fraud. And McConnell joins a growing list of Republican lawmakers who are acknowledging Biden’s win more than a month ago. But polls suggest a clear majority of Republican voters believe Trump’s evidence-deficient claims. [NPR]

3. Investigators assess the scope of Russia’s sprawling hack into federal agencies

Many more federal agencies were compromised by hackers linked to Russia’s intelligence agencies. The New York Times reports that the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and parts of the Pentagon were also attacked. That’s in addition to the Treasury and Commerce Departments, which first reported they had been breached earlier this week.

The hackers compromised software from SolarWinds to gain access to government networks. Among those who use the software are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Justice Department and the National Security Agency.

It’s not clear what the hackers sought or if they remain active in some networks. [NYT]

4. Chicago’s homicide clearance rate fell this year

The Chicago Police Department’s clearance rate for homicides fell to 44.5% this year from last year’s 50.3%, reports the Chicago Tribune. That’s about 20 percentage points lower than the national average.

Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan told the newspaper that despite the decline, 329 murders have been solved so far this year, the most in a single year since 2005. And the city is above its abysmal 29% clearance rate from 2016.

But not all of the murders solved this year resulted in an arrest or charges. The Trib reports that 134 cases were classified as “exceptional,” meaning a suspect was identified, but they were either dead or prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to approve charges. [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, an alderman says Lightfoot is trying to water down a plan that would require anyone arrested to be informed of their right to free legal counsel and allowed to make a “reasonable” number of phone calls within an hour. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. Madigan allies shut down Illinois House probe

An Illinois House investigation into Speaker Michael Madigan’s ties to ComEd came to an abrupt end yesterday without taking any action against the veteran lawmaker, who also serves as chairman of the state’s Democratic Party.

Republicans began a special investigation committee after ComEd admitted to a long-running bribery scheme intended to win Madigan’s support for the power company. Madigan has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.

The committee’s investigation failed to break through partisan politics. The three Democrats on the committee rejected GOP efforts to subpoena Madigan and to ask ComEd executives to testify about internal emails they turned over to the panel last month. The vote to end the committee’s probe fell along partisan lines. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. could see signs of herd immunity by late March or early April. [NPR]
  • Biden tonight is expected to name Pete Buttigieg as his transportation secretary, passing over former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. [NPR]
  • Illinois regulators voted to keep Mercy Hospital open in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. [WBEZ]
  • Illinois last month collected almost as much tax revenue from recreational marijuana as alcohol. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

I’m so ready to say “smell ya later” to 2020, partly because three iconic queens will be ringing in 2021. Jennifer Lopez, Cyndi Lauper and Billy Porter will perform in Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2021. (I’ll go to my grave saying Porter should have been a professor at Hogwarts.)

Lopez will deliver the headlining performance right before the ball drops in New York City’s Times Square, ABC and dick clark productions announced today. The event will be closed to the public because of the pandemic. [AP]

Tell me something good ...

What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the pandemic is over?

Drew writes:

“Dua Lipa, Miley, T-Swift, Gaga and Kylie have all dropped albums this year. So the first one to have a concert, when they make sense to do, I’ll be dancing there.”

And Kathy writes:

“I’m going to hug and kiss my children and grandchildren. I always say grandchildren are the only unconditional love one ever gets, and I’ve been missing some lovin’ since March!”

What will you do when the pandemic is over? Feel free to email at or tweet to @whuntah.

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