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Pritzker

In this May 22, 2020 file photo, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker answers questions from the media, from his office at the Illinois State Capitol, in Springfield, Ill., in front of a painting painting depicting a political debate in Charleston, Ill., on Sept. 18, 1858 between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Is Gov. JB Pritzker In Trouble?

Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and WBEZ is doing performance reviews. I was told once again that “failing upward” cannot be my career goal. Here’s what you need to know today.

(By the way, if you’d like this emailed to your inbox, you can sign up here.)

1. Pritzker’s approval rate drops to lowest level since pandemic

Less than 45% of Illinois residents approve of Gov. JB Pritzker’s handling of the pandemic, according to a poll taken last month by Northwestern University, Northeastern University, Harvard University and Rutgers University. That’s down from 63% in April of 2020.

Pritzker told WBEZ he’s not worried about the polling, saying he is following “the scientists and the facts.” But Pritzker did say he regrets not enacting a mask mandate sooner.

Why did Pritzker’s polling numbers drop? Jennifer Lin, a researcher at Northwestern who was involved in the polling, said she has seen the trend in other states.

“Governors were once the center at the start of the pandemic,” she said. “But as the times changed and the coverage was not about their policies all the time, these numbers moved more towards ‘normal’ approval.” [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, the Pritzker administration is preparing to release a plan that will gradually phase out restrictions and transition Illinois into a post-pandemic world.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, told lawmakers this week that “we’re getting close” to lifting all remaining restrictions. [Chicago Tribune]

2. Staff at Chicago’s Trump Tower were reportedly vaccinated even though they aren’t eligible yet

Some staff members received vaccines in an event that a Trump Tower official said was part of a city program that targets areas of Chicago that were hit hard by the pandemic, reports Block Club Chicago.

A Trump Tower official said they were contacted by a vaccine provider working with Protect Chicago Plus, a program that aims to boost the number of vaccinations on the South and West sides, Block Club reports.

A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health told Block Club that city officials were not aware of a March 10 vaccination event taking place at Trump Tower and are “looking into” the situation.

Staff members at the building, which includes condos and a hotel, are not eligible for shots until the end of the month, though it is possible that some employees may fall into categories that allow them to be vaccinated, such as being 65 years old and over. [Block Club Chicago]

3. The murder rate is high across the U.S.

Murders are up 18% so far this year among a group of 37 cities where data is available, according to The New York Times, which compared the number of murders to the same time period last year.

The news comes as the FBI this week released preliminary statistics that shows murders were up 25% last year, but that number doesn’t yet include Chicago and other big cities that are struggling with a surge in homicides. An official number isn’t expected until later this year.

The Times reports that some possibilities for the surge in murders could be pandemic stress and “less belief in police legitimacy related to protests over police brutality.” [NYT]

4. Biden administration defends handling of migrant surge

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas today said the situation at the southwest border is under control and defended the Biden administration’s decision to allow children and teens crossing by themselves to remain in the U.S.

More than 9,400 minors arrived at the border without their parents last month, a 60% increase from January. The spike presents the Biden administration with a big humanitarian challenge as it tries to secure space to house the children and teens.

The decision to allow the minors to remain in the U.S. is a rejection of a Trump-era policy of immediately sending migrants back to Mexico or other countries. Republicans claim that is causing more migrants to seek asylum in the U.S., but Mayorkas said surges in migrants took place even during President Trump’s term in office. [AP]

5. Confusion erupts in Europe over safety of AstraZeneca vaccine

Several European countries have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a small number of patients developed blood clots.

However, the head of the European Medicines Agency today said there is currently “no indication” the vaccine caused the rare side effects. The World Health Organization has also said it has seen no evidence showing the vaccine is responsible. The EMA is conducting a full review and is expected to deliver its conclusions on Thursday.

The confusion over the vaccine’s safety comes at a time when many countries have struggled to ramp up vaccinations during a deadly third wave of infections. The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for emergency use in the U.S. [Axios]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Russia and Iran tried to influence the 2020 presidential election, but no ballots were changed, U.S. intelligence officials said. [Washington Post]
  • Moderna has begun tests for COVID-19 vaccines for children between 6 months to less than 12 years old. [NPR]
  • Chicago restaurant owners are urging officials to put their employees ahead in the line for vaccines. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Here’s a look at how Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois plays a pivotal role in advancing President Biden’s agenda. [Politico]

Oh, and one more thing …

More signs pointing to a “return to normal” popped up today for the Chicago area.

The Chicago Cubs announced new dates for concerts at Wrigley Field that were postponed last year. The dates suggest the Cubs are feeling optimistic about July, when Chris Stapleton and the Guns N’ Roses are now slated to perform. [Chicago Tribune]

The Ravinia Festival also announced that concerts will resume in July, but with a limited number of seats and other social-distancing restrictions. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Tell me something good ...

What sports moment, past, present or future, would you want to have front row seats for?

Paul Lockwod writes:

“I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I’d want front-row seats for Nov. 2, 2016 when the Cubs won World Series Game 7. My dad, born in 1920, passed away in November of 1996 and never saw the Cubs win a World Series. He was the quintessential die-hard Cubs fan, and it would have meant the world to him to see the Cubs take the title, especially in such a dramatic fashion. So I wouldn’t just want front-row seats to the game — I would have wanted Dad to be sitting next to me.”

Feel free to email me at therundown@wbez.org or tweet me at @whuntah.

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