The Rundown: Chicago sets new record for COVID-19 cases

A chart of COVID cases in Illinois
A chart of COVID cases in Illinois

The Rundown: Chicago sets new record for COVID-19 cases

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Hi there! It’s Thursday, and the newsletter will be taking a day off tomorrow, but we’ll be back on Monday. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. City and state report all-time high for daily COVID-19 cases

As omicron spreads across the U.S., Illinois today reported 18,942 new COVID-19 cases — the highest total for any single day during the pandemic. [Illinois Department of Public Health]

Chicago also set a record for cases in one day: 5,216. [Block Club Chicago]

Hospitalizations, including patients needing intensive care, are also at record highs.

“Part of it feels like the beginning of the pandemic again,” said hospital pharmacist Jenna Lopez. [Chicago Sun-Times]

The surge comes amid a national shortage of at-home testing kits, leaving some scrambling to get tested before holiday travel and get-togethers. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools said parents should expect some remote learning in January, but the district is unlikely to completely shut down. [Chicago Sun-Times]

And today Cook County said restaurant, bar and gym customers must show proof of vaccination starting Jan. 3. [AP]

2. FDA authorized a second pill to treat COVID-19

Some good news: Molnupiravir, made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is the second antiviral, at-home pill to be approved by the FDA in two days. Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment was approved yesterday.

“These new antiviral pills could totally change how people treat COVID infections at home, since the only FDA-authorized treatment for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients is monoclonal antibodies, which typically require an intravenous infusion,” NPR reports.

Molnupiravir is taken twice a day for five days, and its use will be limited to areas where “other FDA-authorized treatments for COVID-19 are inaccessible.” [NPR]

3. Kim Potter found guilty of manslaughter in Daunte Wright’s death

The former Minnesota police officer who mistakenly drew her handgun instead of her Taser during a traffic stop has been found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter.

“The trial centered on questions of whether she should have recognized she was holding the heavier, metal gun, or whether she should have drawn any weapon at all,” NPR reports.

Potter, who had been an officer in Brooklyn Center, Minn., for 26 years, will be sentenced later. The state’s guidelines recommend a sentence of roughly seven years for the first-degree charge and four years for the second-degree charge, though prosecutors indicated they would seek a longer sentence. [NPR]

4. Consumer prices are rising at a rate not seen in almost 40 years

Consumer prices rose 5.7% over the past year — the fastest pace in 39 years and well above the 2% inflation target set by the Federal Reserve, the Commerce Department announced today. But consumer spending rose slower last month than in October.

“Consumers spent with less enthusiasm in November as they shifted their holiday shopping to earlier in the season and continued to contend with escalating prices and reduced product availability,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.

Some economists believe there will be rapid economic growth in the first quarter of 2022. But others worry a rebound could be jeopardized if omicron keeps spreading. [AP]

Meanwhile independent retailers are hoping shortages at bigger stores stemming from supply chain issues will lead to a burst of last-minute shopping in their stores. [AP]

5. A space telescope could “open a new window to the cosmos”

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope — the successor to the Hubble — will launch from French Guiana on Christmas Day, but getting into space is just the first challenge for the “$10 billion marvel of engineering and scientific ambition.”

The telescope must cruise for 29 days to reach its spot roughly 1 million miles from Earth — evading 344 potential points of failure.

“The inescapable reality is that the Webb, or the JWST as some prefer to call it, is either going to provide a revolutionary new view of the cosmic firmament or become a very expensive piece of aerospace sculpture a million miles from Earth. There’s not a lot of in-between,” reports The Washington Post.

Find an animation of how the telescope will launch as a rocket, shed its shell and move into place in the link. [WaPo]

Here’s what else is happening

  • China puts a city of 13 million in lockdown ahead of the Olympics. [AP]

  • Revered author and essayist Joan Didion died at 87. [NPR]

  • As their union fights a vax mandate, 64% of Illinois prison workers are vaccinated. [WBEZ]

  • Two kittens, who were stolen and then tossed into a trash bin at O’Hare International Airport, have been recovered. [Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

In the South Side Chatham neighborhood is an unusual historic district of double peaked houses that was designed to increase home ownership 100 years ago.

In 1919, several Chicago-area businessmen came together to model a neighborhood after an English village. The goal was to provide affordable housing for low-income workers at two nearby factories.

As Reset’s Dennis Rodkin writes, since families often own only half of the twin peak houses, the two sides today differ in color or siding. See photos of the charming houses, taken by photographer Vashon Jordan Jr., in the link. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

What’s something that’s given you joy recently?

Meg Greve writes:

“My first grade students on pajama day! I have a good friend who bought them all new PJs and gave them each a stuffed animal. They read to their new toy in their cozy PJs and sipped hot chocolate. One of my firsties declared this day to be: ‘The best day of my whole life.’ ”

Thanks for reading, and have a nice night. We’ll see you on Monday.