The Rundown: Lightfoot tests positive for COVID-19

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pictured on Oct. 8. 2021. On Tuesday, she announced she had tested positive for COVID-19. Marc Monaghan for WBEZ
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pictured on Oct. 8. 2021. On Tuesday, she announced she had tested positive for COVID-19. Marc Monaghan for WBEZ

The Rundown: Lightfoot tests positive for COVID-19

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Hey there! It’s Tuesday, and “American Idol” alum Clay Aiken’s run for Congress has me wondering: What happened to Ruben Studdard? Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Mayor Lori Lightfoot tests positive for COVID-19

In a statement released this afternoon, Lightfoot said she was “experiencing cold-like symptoms” but otherwise feels fine. She said she plans to continue to work from home in accordance with health guidelines and urged Chicagoans to get vaccinated and boosted against the virus. [WBEZ]

The news comes as Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials faced criticism during a Senate hearing today over how the federal government is handling the surge in cases caused by the highly contagious omicron variant.

“This administration has time and again squandered its opportunities and made things worse in the decisions you’ve made on testing and treatments and, most crucially, in communicating with the American people,” said Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, pointing to shifting guidance on how long infected people should quarantine as a cause of confusion.

Other senators noted troubles with testing, particularly the scarcity of at-home kits, as another area of concern. [WaPo]

Starting this Saturday, insurance companies will be required to reimburse Americans for eight rapid tests a month. Here’s what to know about how to get paid back. [NPR]

2. Biden wants to change filibuster rules to pass voting rights bills

President Joe Biden in Georgia today said he supports changing the Senate’s filibuster rule to make it easier for Democrats to pass two key voting rights bills.

“We have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster, for this,” he said during a speech in Atlanta. “To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules to whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking voting rights.”

But carving out exceptions to the 60-vote threshold could be easier said than done. The Senate is evenly split between parties, meaning every Democrat must be on board to pass a rule change, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tiebreaker. Both West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have previously stated their opposition to amending the filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he plans to hold a vote tied to voting rights next week. [NPR]

3. Chicago Public Schools classes will resume Wednesday

Students will return to school buildings tomorrow after the Chicago Teachers Union voted to suspend its remote work action, having reached a tentative agreement with the school district over COVID-19 safety protocols.

Under the new deal, which still needs to be approved later this week, individual schools will be allowed to revert to remote learning if 40% of students are quarantined as omicron infections surge. Schools can also close if 30% of staff are absent related to COVID-19, or if substitutes can’t reduce the absence rate to below 25%.

The union and city officials also agreed to increase virus testing in schools, randomly selecting 10% of students to be tested each week. While parents will still have to opt their children in for school-based testing, stipends will be made available to pay people to get more families signed up. [WBEZ]

CPS has already spent $26.5 million on testing this school year, WBEZ’s Becky Vevea reports. The school district is also planning to purchase 350,000 antigen tests — rapid tests that can be given at home with quick results — from SHIELD Illinois. [WBEZ]

4. Northwestern, UChicago and Notre Dame sued over financial aid practices

Three midwest universities are among several elite schools named in a class-action lawsuit that claims they conspired to restrict financial aid for low-income students, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The case centers around the actions of the 568 Presidents Group, a consortium of college officials that shared information about students to create a formula for calculating financial need. While antitrust laws require members of the group evaluate potential students only on merit, not their family’s finances, the lawsuit alleges multiple schools illegally weighed prospective students’ ability to pay when awarding aid..

Plaintiffs in the suit are seeking payouts for students who attended the schools and received financial aid after 2003, when the need formula was created. That pool could include as many as 170,000 people. [Sun-Times]

5. Maya Angelou becomes the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. quarter

Commemorative coins featuring the trailblazing poet and civil rights activist started shipping to banks this week, the U.S. Mint announced.

The design, which depicts Angelou in front of a bird and a rising sun, is the first produced as part of the “American Women Quarters Program.” The four-year project celebrating influential U.S. women will also feature astronaut Sally Ride; actress Anna May Wong; suffragist and politician Nina Otero-Warren; and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

“The phenomenal women who shaped American history have gone unrecognized for too long — especially women of color,” U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a driving force behind the program, said in a tweet. “Proud to have led this bill to honor their legacies.” [NPR]

Here’s what else is happening

  • A new report shows 2021 was the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans. [CNN]

  • Illinois abortion providers say they’re seeing an increase in out-of-state patients. [Block Club Chicago]

  • Betty White died six days after having a stroke, according to her death certificate. [AP]

  • The Shedd Aquarium will undergo a $500 million revitalization ahead of its 100th anniversary. [Sun-Times]

  • Did you quit your job last year? Curious City wants to hear from you. [WBEZ]

Oh, and one more thing …

Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, known for his viral videos about Chicago history, is taking his talents from social media to the small screen.

The TikTok star — and regular WBEZ contributor — recently announced he’s working with Netflix on a new show based in the Windy City. Produced by Chicago Party Aunt creator Chris Witaske, the series will go back in time to follow a real Chicagoan through a major historical moment.

Thomas, who plans to finish writing the pilot by Black History Month, said he hopes the show will help viewers see Chicago in a new light.

“I feel determined, and I feel responsible to help change the Chicago narrative, or at least provide some perspective,” Thomas said. “We have the issues we have today because of what historically happened. So, if you can better explain what historically happened, maybe you can fix what’s happening today.” [Block Club Chicago]

You can catch Thomas on WBEZ every other Tuesday at 91.5 FM.

Tell me something good …

I’ve been looking for some new artists to freshen up my playlists. Who do you recommend and why?

Shelby writes:

“When it comes to music, I love The Mammals, a group that sings about the environment with a raucous collection of folk vocalists and instruments. Their song “Haircut Money” was a fun one to dance to when my hair got shaggy during the first year and change of COVID.”

And Jeff writes:

“Two artists to consider for your playlist. One is former Chicagoan Kurt Elling who had a killer jazz-funk album called SuperBlue at the end of last year. And for something meditative, Benedict Sheehan’s Vespers with the Saint Tikhon Choir.”

What about you? Feel free to email or tweet us, and your responses might be shared here this week.