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A dose of the monkeypox vaccine is administered in West Garfield Park in July.

A dose of the monkeypox vaccine is administered in West Garfield Park in July.

Anthony Vazquez

The Rundown: Good news in the fight against monkeypox

Hey there! I’ve got to keep it quiet and type this very slowly. My dog is on the warpath. She is staring at me. If I make noise she will pounce with the fury of Cerberus. Please send help. But also, here’s what you need to know today.

1. Monkeypox cases plateau in Chicago and elsewhere, raising hope the worst is behind us

Let’s start off with some good news today: The monkeypox outbreak is not looking as dire as it did just a few weeks ago.

At Cook County Health, the region’s largest safety-net health care provider, there have been no new monkeypox cases since last Friday, officials tell my colleague Courtney Kueppers.

In Chicago, the number of new cases has steadily declined throughout August.

“We are clearly seeing a plateau and then some decrease in new cases,” Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s top public health official, said this week. She added that “we need to keep testing where folks have symptoms and keep vaccinating, but it is a good sign.”

As the immediate threat of monkeypox diminishes, Arwady said mass vaccination sites at city colleges will pivot back to COVID-19 after Labor Day. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, this summer’s outbreak of monkeypox has given scientists a better understanding of how the virus spreads.

Monkeypox “has always been known to spread through close contact, but many researchers suspect the infection may also be transmitted through sex itself,” reports The New York Times. [NYT]

2. Pritzker says Illinois Dems are ‘hard at work’ at protecting abortion rights. Here’s what’s being discussed.

As I mentioned yesterday, Gov. JB Pritzker vowed to call lawmakers back to the state capitol and strengthen abortion protections following the end of Roe v. Wade.

But that hasn’t happened. So what’s going on?

“The legislators are hard at work now,” Pritzker recently told reporters. “I think you know, in working groups, in fact working with Planned Parenthood and many other pro-choice organizations to make sure that they can craft the legislation that we need.”

My colleague Tina Sfondeles at the Chicago Sun-Times reports lawmakers are currently discussing “legislation to protect medical providers from legal, criminal and civil liability, expand the capacity of providers who can provide abortions and measures to protect and grow clinics.”

Clinics are a big area of concern, according to advocates of abortion rights. Providers say they need more funding and resources to handle a wave of patients from out of state. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Can the Chicago Teachers Union unseat Mayor Lightfoot?

The race for mayor of Chicago is officially on as candidates this week begin collecting signatures to get on the ballot.

And now seems a good time to look at one major power player in city politics: the Chicago Teachers Union.

It’s no secret the union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot do not see eye to eye. But does the CTU currently have enough power to put one of its own members in the mayor’s office?

It’s a question with a lot of weight. If the union were to accomplish this feat, it would achieve the unrealized dream of Karen Lewis, the charismatic former president who decided against running for mayor in 2015 after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

As WBEZ reports, petitions are right now being circulated for Brandon Johnson, a union organizer and Cook County commissioner.

But critics say the CTU has a spotty record with elections. And yet, local politicians line up for an endorsement from the union, which has a devoted following among Democratic Socialists and other progressive-leaning voters. [WBEZ]

4. Updated COVID-19 shots could be available in Chicago after Labor Day

The Food and Drug Administration today authorized its first update to COVID-19 vaccines. And public health officials hope the modified boosters will blunt yet another surge of infections in the fall and winter.

In Chicago, public health officials are preparing for a massive vaccine rollout.

“Rest assured, we are ready to go and excited,” said Dr. Allison Arwady.

Up until now, COVID-19 vaccines have only targeted the original strain of the coronavirus. The new shots target both the original and the omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants that most people are catching now.

The new boosters are only available to people who completed their primary round of vaccinations. Doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster are authorized for people 12 years and up, while Moderna’s updated booster is for people 18 years and older. [WBEZ]

5. It was a summer of chaos for airlines. But for Chicago, it wasn’t the worst.

Don’t even get me started on my trip to Denver, Colorado. But that’s a story for another time.

Across the nation, airlines faced turmoil thanks in part to staff shortages and bad weather. In Chicago, nearly one in four inbound flights were delayed between May and July, reports my colleague Charmaine Runes.

But surprisingly, that isn’t the worst the city has seen. Charmaine writes that “in the summer of 2021, arrival delays at Midway exceeded 2019 pre-pandemic levels. The percent of delays at O’Hare increased but not to the same extent.”

Another interesting tidbit? The worst time to fly out of O’Hare was between 4 and 4:59 p.m., with a 71% on-time departure rate in May, Charmaine reports. At Midway, less than one in three flights took off on time between 9 p.m. and 10:59 p.m. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Highly classified documents at Mar-a-Lago may have been moved and hidden, according to a court filing from federal prosecutors. [AP]
  • Former Chicago Bulls star Toni Kukoc is suing his former Swiss bank, accusing one of its bankers of working with Kukoc’s personal financial adviser to steal $11 million. [WBEZ]
  • The Chicago Sky have adjustments to make in Game 2, but Candace Parker doesn’t need to change a thing. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Drinking two or more cups of black tea a day could be good for your health, according to a new study. [CNN]

Oh, and one more thing …

I honestly thought I was hallucinating when I saw this headline from NPR: “An astronomer thinks alien tech could be on the ocean floor. Not everyone agrees.”

So here’s the deal: A professor with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics believes a meteor that fell into the South Pacific Ocean eight years ago may be a technological object created by aliens. And now he wants to recover it.

“It moved very fast, roughly 40 kilometers per second when it exploded in the lower atmosphere,” said professor Avi Loeb. “And from that, we can infer that it was moving much too fast to be bound to the sun.”

The idea was dismissed by some astronomers. But then something else happened.

In April, a memo “published by U.S. Space Command seemed to confirm that the object came from another star system,” NPR reports.

Good luck, professor. You might want to check out Michael Crichton’s Sphere from the library for your expedition. [NPR]

Tell me something good ...

With the Chicago Sky in the WNBA semifinals this week, I want to hear about your all-time favorite sports memories.

Amy Johnson Bax writes:

“I am not a sports-type, by any means. But I did have one memorable sports summer.

“First, I went to the last game at Comiskey Park. Later that year, I went to a football game at Illinois. (This is the real story.) They were celebrating 100 years of football at Illinois. I rode with some friends.

“During the ride, I found the program from the previous week’s game in the back seat. Not having anything else to read, I read through the program. It highlighted every decade of football. In the section on the 1920s, it talked about Red Grange, who still held the record for the longest carry.

“During the game that day, Red Grange’s record was broken! As soon as I saw it happen, I started yelling, ‘He broke Red Grange’s record! He broke Red Grange’s record!’ My friends turned and gave me a puzzled look, until they heard the announcer start yelling, ‘He broke Red Grange’s record!’ A serendipitous and very proud sports moment for me!”

Feel free to email or tweet me, and your response might be shared here this week.

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