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nurse giving covid vaccine to teenager

Christine Allegretti, a registered nurse, administers a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Ariana Riley, 13, at Michele Clark High School while her father Marcus Riley looks on during a weekly vaccination clinic on Aug. 12, 2021.

Manuel Martinez

The Rundown: The flu, COVID on the rise

Good afternoon, and happy Friday! There’s now a Chicago-style croissant, thanks to Daisies and The Wieners Circle — and it actually looks pretty good. Here’s what else you need to know today.

1. Hospital admissions for the flu are on the rise in Illinois

Health experts are urging people to get up-to-date on their flu and COVID-19 shots as cases of both viruses are increasing as indoor gatherings become more common, my colleague Mitchell Armentrout reports for the Chicago Sun-Times.

“What we’re seeing spreading the fastest is influenza, but both COVID and flu cases are increasing,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior medical officer at the Cook County Department of Public Health. “Flu is beginning to overtake COVID for emergency room visits.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,225 new COVID-19 hospitalizations for the week ending Dec. 14 — a 22% jump from the previous week. And Chicago hospitals were admitting about 30 COVID patients per day as of Christmas Eve.

Experts are encouraging a return to pandemic habits as New Year’s Eve approaches.

“Think about wearing a mask at your New Year’s gatherings. Wash your hands. Take a COVID test, and stay at home if you feel sick,” Rubin advised. [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Violent crime rates on CTA trains are lower than last year – but still higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic

A Chicago Tribune analysis found 4.7 violent crimes for every million rides between January and November 2023, down from 6.2 per million rides over the same time last year.

However, the violent crime rate was below 2.5 per million rides before the pandemic. Violent crimes include homicides, robberies and aggressive assaults.

Nonviolent crimes — such as theft — are also down compared to last year.

Riders have said crime is a major concern, and ridership remained below pre-pandemic levels despite an increase in police officers and security guards. [Chicago Tribune]

3. A new Illinois law should help survivors of gender violence who sue their employers

The law will allow workers to hold their employer liable for failing “to supervise, train, or monitor the employee who engaged in the gender-related violence” or for not taking “remedial measures” after being informed of alleged misconduct in the workplace, my colleague Dan Mihalopoulos writes for WBEZ.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, who introduced the legislation in the Illinois House, said the new law should help survivors who face sexual violence on the job in cases where there were systemic problems that the employers tolerated.

“The bosses, the employers who knew or who should have known this kind of violence was happening and turned a blind eye — they too will be held accountable,” Guzzardi told WBEZ. “This legislation will help survivors to seek real remedy for that kind of harm.”

The measure was approved in the spring legislative session by the Illinois House and Senate and signed by Gov. JB Pritzker in July. It goes into effect Jan. 1. [WBEZ]

4. The Southwest Side is the hottest area in Chicago during summer, a climate study finds

When volunteers drove around the city to take heat measurements on July 28, they found it was more than 20 degrees hotter on the Southwest Side compared to the Far North Side, Brett Chase reports for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Possible explanations include the Southwest Side being farther away from Lake Michigan, busy roads and highways, industrial corridors and the number of concrete surfaces.

While planting more trees across the city will help many areas, the plan is not the only thing needed to address what’s known as an “urban heat island” effect, city officials said.

The reason for the difference in temperatures — and what can be done about it — will be studied more in the coming months. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. An animal trainer’s harrowing ride across America with a serial killer — and a chimp — is now a movie

Animal trainer Dave Pitts was driving from Los Angeles to Minnesota with Spanky, “the world’s only ice-skating chimpanzee,” in 1964 when the Evanston native picked up a hitchhiker, Stefano Esposito writes for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Pitts didn’t know his companion for the next three days was a 19-year-old high school dropout named Larry Lee Ranes, nor that Ranes had killed three people — two gas station attendants and a man who, like Pitts, had been kind enough to offer him a ride.

“He lived because he had a chimp,” Jonathan Pitts said about his father. “If he had had a dog or a cat, Larry Ranes would have killed him. Like he killed everybody else.”

Nearly 60 years after that improbable road trip, the story of Spanky, Dave Pitts and the serial killer now has been made into a movie. The heavily fictionalized He Went That Way, starring Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) as the trainer and Jacob Elordi (Euphoria) as the hitchhiker, arrives in theaters Jan. 5 and on-demand services Jan. 12. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Ohio’s Republican governor vetoed a bill banning transgender kids from girls’ sports and some medical treatments. [NPR]

  • Maine’s secretary of state ruled that former President Donald Trump isn’t eligible for the state’s 2024 primary election ballot. [NPR]

  • Russia fired more than 100 missiles on Ukraine today. [Washington Post]

  • Here’s how Illinois Democrats in Congress are split on the Israel-Hamas war and antisemitism legislation. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

Despite two historic writers’ and actors’ strikes, there was a lot of TV to watch this year. Nerdette host Greta Johnsen turned to two experts to weigh in on their favorites: The New Yorker TV critic Inkoo Kang and Kathryn VanArendonk, TV critic for Vulture.

In putting together her list, Inkoo says she “looked for shows that pushed the medium.” She also argues that her own list is “as much a portrait of me as a critic as it is a portrait of TV this year.”

Among the shows they discussed are the second season of The Bear and the third season of Reservation Dogs. [Nerdette]

Tell me something good ...

What are your goals for the new year?

Patricia says:

“I plan on organizing my life!”

Thanks for all your responses this week! We couldn’t include them all, but it was great hearing from everyone.

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