The Rundown: Chicago relaxes vax mandate for city workers

Views from Michele Clark High School during a weekly vaccination clinic on August 12, 2021. WBEZ
Views from Michele Clark High School during a weekly vaccination clinic on August 12, 2021. WBEZ

The Rundown: Chicago relaxes vax mandate for city workers

Hey there! It’s Friday, and I’m so exhausted that I saw the picture on this story and thought, “Wait, are those hot dogs?” Anyway, 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. Lightfoot waters down vaccine mandate for city workers

As officials in New York and California have adopted increasingly aggressive vaccine mandates, Chicago is taking a more lenient approach.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in August that all city workers must be vaccinated by Oct. 15. But her office has relaxed that mandate, saying unvaccinated workers can keep their jobs so long as they undergo regular testing, reports WBEZ’s Mariah Woelfel.

The president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, which opposes Lightfoot’s mandate, told rank-and-file officers in an email today that vaccination reporting will be voluntary and not mandatory. [WBEZ]

In New York and California, health care workers were required to get shots this week, and the move boosted vaccination rates without prompting significant walkouts from unvaccinated employees.

“Mandates are working,” John Swartzberg, a physician and professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, told The New York Times. “If you define ‘working’ by the percentage of people getting vaccinated and not leaving their jobs in droves.” [NYT]

Meanwhile, California became the first state to require all schoolchildren to get shots pending federal approval. [Washington Post]

2. Drugmaker says experimental pill can cut the risk of dying from COVID-19 in half

Merck & Co. announced today its experimental COVID-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected with the coronavirus.

The drugmaker said it will soon ask federal officials for emergency authorization, and the pill could be the first in a wave to treat COVID-19, marking a new front in efforts to contain the virus. [NPR]

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh tested positive for COVID-19 just days before the high court resumes in-person oral arguments. [NPR]

3. Biden’s approval rating slips with a key group of voters

President Joe Biden’s approval rating among Black voters fell from 86% in July to 64% in August, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Black Americans were a crucial voting bloc for Biden in the Democratic primaries and the 2020 presidential election. It remains to be seen if the president’s popularity continues to drop or bounces back, and it’s not immediately clear why Biden has fallen with Black voters.

Overall, 50% of voters approve of Biden, down from 54% in August. But in follow-up interviews, some of those who had mixed feelings about Biden’s performance still saw him as preferable to former President Donald Trump. [AP]

4. Illinois and four other states seek to become major drivers in the electric vehicle industry

As officials around the world race to capitalize on a growing demand for electric vehicles, the governors of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have crafted a plan aimed at making the Midwest more competitive in an industry expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

The bipartisan plan — called the Regional Electric Vehicle Midwest Coalition, or REV Midwest for short — seeks a significant expansion of charging stations to support electric vehicles. The governors hope easier access to stations will entice more people to buy electric vehicles and reduce car emissions.

The governors also want to grab a larger share of electric vehicle production, and they have vowed to “work together to enable an equitable transition to electric vehicles for all with specific consideration for communities that are historically disadvantaged.” [NPR]

5. The 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire is near. And O’Leary descendants say, Don’t have a cow!

You’ve probably heard the story: In 1871, a cow named Daisy kicked over a lantern left by Catherine O’Leary in a barn and started the Great Chicago Fire. But the cow and O’Leary were exonerated, placing the story among the many legends and myths of the city.

But on this year’s big anniversary of the historic disaster, descendants of the O’Learys say it’s well past time to finally give the discredited cow theory a rest.

“People would come from all over to throw rocks at the house,” said Peggy Knight, a great-great-granddaughter of Catherine and Patrick O’Leary. [Chicago Tribune]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Students at Northwestern and Loyola are taking to social media to combat sexual misconduct amid long-simmering dissatisfaction with university officials. [WBEZ]
  • The agency charged with investigating Chicago police shootings could be underfunded, again. [WBEZ]
  • Illinois State Police say they’re ramping up patrols on Chicago expressways, which have seen 185 shootings so far this year. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Chicago is becoming the Hollywood of the Midwest, the Lightfoot administration says. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

The weekend can’t get here fast enough so I can do whatever I want for two days, like cancel plans at the last minute. Luckily, WBEZ has a lot of great things to listen to.

On this week’s Art of Power, famed comedian Margaret Cho talks about the “invisibility” of Asian Americans.

“When you’re dealing with invisibility, it’s really hard to put words to it because you don’t even know that you’re there,” Cho said. “You don’t even know that you’re invisible.” [WBEZ]

Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen talks to two trailblazers in an episode that explores what it means to be “the first.” She’s joined by Schuyler Bailar, the first out trans athlete to compete on a NCAA Division I men’s team, and Dr. Richard Antoine White, the first Black tenured professor of tuba performance in the country. [WBEZ]

And comedian Paula Poundstone talks to Reset about her first in-person tour since the pandemic began and what it’s like to compete on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

“I’d just like to clarify something: Yes, I’m trying to win!” [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

What’s something funny that your pet has done?

Andrea Steinberg writes:

“I had a guinea pig who we kept in a basket in the kitchen. He liked carrots and grew to understand that they were kept in the fridge. After that, every time he heard the fridge door open, he would start squeaking at us until he got his carrot.”

And Sandy writes:

“When I first got my cat (rescued from a neighbor who had left her behind after selling their house), she was so shy that she took to hiding on and in the topmost cupboards. Once she disappeared for almost a day and I panicked that she may have escaped, until I discovered her behind the refrigerator. Because of her white fur and inclination to disappear, I named her Ghost Cat.”

Thanks for all the emails this week. I’m sorry I couldn’t share them all, but it was nice hearing from y’all!

Have a nice night! If you like what you just read, you can subscribe to the newsletter here and have it delivered to your inbox.