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Chicago Public Schools Pandemic

An empty hallway at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Academy of Social Justice, on September 8, 2020, the first day of remote learning for Chicago Public Schools.

Manuel Martinez

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Will Chicago Teachers Strike Again?

Hey there! It’s Thursday, and my poor dog is feeling sick today. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Will Chicago teachers go on strike?

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board today rejected an attempt by the Chicago Teachers Union to delay Chicago Public Schools’ plan to allow some students to return to classrooms on Jan. 11.

The union claimed the school district did not bargain in good faith about its reopening plan, and it asked the labor board for a preliminary injunction. But the top attorney for the labor board argued it’s unclear if the union’s contract mandates negotiations over reopening schools during a pandemic.

The matter can still go to trial, but it’s unlikely to be resolved before schools reopen. The union could take another avenue: call for a strike vote. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, the union has internally discussed the option and could call for a strike authorization vote in the next few weeks. CTU President Jesse Sharkey this week said “all options are going to be on the table.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. FDA panel is expected to give second COVID-19 vaccine the green light

An advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration is expected today to recommend emergency approval for a vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna.

The FDA earlier this week released a favorable review of the vaccine, which is 94% effective. A clinical trial including more than 30,000 people found some common side effects, such as pain in the injection site, fatigue, headache and muscle pain.

If the panel signs off on the vaccine, then the FDA could make a final decision as early as Friday. [NPR]

Meanwhile, the FDA said some vials of the Pfizer vaccine being shipped across the U.S. contain extra doses. The news comes as some states, such as Illinois, said they are receiving far fewer doses than originally expected. [NPR]

In Illinois, state officials today reported 181 deaths and 8,828 new cases. Illinois is quickly approaching nearly 15,000 deaths since the pandemic began. [WBEZ]

3. U.S. jobless claims remain historically high

Many employers continue to slash an extraordinary number of jobs, with 935,000 Americans filing new unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department announced today. That’s slightly down from 956,000 claims filed the previous week.

When factoring seasonal trends, the number of new claims was 885,000, the highest total since September.

“The labor market outlook is bleak as the winter wave of the virus is going to lead to more shutdowns,” wrote Edward Moya, an analyst at the currency trading firm OANDA, in a research note.

Illinois once again saw the second largest increase in new claims. The state reported 33,485 claims. California saw the most with 48,341. [AP]

In Congress, Democratic and Republican lawmakers appear to inch closer to a deal on providing more federal relief. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today that he hopes a bill will be introduced tomorrow. [CNN]

4. Facing fallout from botched police raid, Lightfoot vows to “do better”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot today pledged that her administration “will do better, and we will win back the trust that we have lost this week.”

Lightfoot’s comments come as she confronts the fallout from a 2019 police raid on an innocent woman’s home. Social worker Anjanette Young was getting ready for bed when officers raided her home and handcuffed her while she was naked. An hour later, officers realized they had targeted the wrong house.

News of the raid reemerged this week when WBBM-Ch. 2 aired police bodycam footage of the raid, which the city’s Law Department tried to prevent.

Lightfoot and the police superintendent said changes have already been made to no-knock warrants, which must now be approved by high-level bureau chiefs. Lightfoot also said the city will review its video release policy and may need to shorten the 60-day deadline for publicly releasing police footage. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, the president for the union representing Chicago’s rank and file officers said the Lightfoot administration does not care about their health during the pandemic, saying “they don’t give a damn when you die.”

Lightfoot said the city has taken significant steps to protect the health of officers and first responders. [WGN]

5. Black Illinois lawmakers unveil ambitious plan addressing systemic inequality

The Legislative Black Caucus plans to introduce four bills next month that would address police accountability, criminal justice, violence reduction and inequalities in education, the labor market and health care, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

Among the big police reform proposals are limiting when the use of force by an officer is justified and putting restrictions on qualified immunity, which is a liability shield for officers and public officials. The plan also addresses conflict de-escalation and police wellness.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford said the caucus’ agenda focused on crucial areas of inequality “so that we can confirm the foundational causes of systemic racism and oppression across Illinois, in particular in our government and policy, that impedes the growth and progress of the black community.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Here’s a good explainer on the negotiations between the U.K. and the European Union as the deadline for Brexit approaches. [NPR]
  • French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for the coronavirus. [NPR]
  • Russia’s Olympic ban was reduced to two years. [NPR]
  • You can wear someone else’s face. [Reuters]

Oh, and one more thing …

What’s that in the sky? A plane? Superman? My never-ending disappointment in life?

Oh no, it’s a goose. Canada geese, which were on the verge of extinction in the 1960s, can be found throughout Chicago. This week’s Curious City looks at a bunch of listener questions about geese. Are geese a problem? Why are there so many in Chicago? And how have they adapted to live here? Click the link to see the answers to those questions and more. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

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

Queta Bauer writes:

“When the pandemic is over, I will fly to San Diego and then rent a car to go to Ensenada, Baja California, México, to see my 94-year-old mom. She has dementia and might not remember me. Sad. It’s been one year. I haven’t seen her. At least I hope to hug her.”

And Joy writes:

“I can’t wait to dance with other people around me with my eyes closed. I miss the life of the party.”

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

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