The Rundown: Overwhelmed hospitals may soon see relief

entrance to northwestern hospital
The emergency entrance at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
entrance to northwestern hospital
The emergency entrance at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

The Rundown: Overwhelmed hospitals may soon see relief

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

Hey there! It’s Thursday, and I’m listening to The Ronettes in remembrance of the legendary Ronnie Spector. 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. Overwhelmed hospitals in Illinois may soon see relief

More than 2,000 contract health care workers are being dispatched to help Illinois hospitals that are close to the breaking point due to an influx of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients and staff shortages, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

Gov. JB Pritzker this week also said his administration is creating “COVID reaction teams” to quickly help health care facilities that are close to being overwhelmed. [Chicago Sun-Times]

In Chicago, cases and hospitalizations may be near their peak. Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s top public health official, said today the number of patients needing medical care appears to be flattening.

Similar trends are being spotted in other major cities, giving hope that the omicron wave could soon begin to drop.

As The New York Times reports, the number of cases seems to be flattening in New York City, Boston and Los Angeles. And New Jersey and Maryland have seen a slight decrease in their case counts. [NYT]

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large companies. [AP]

2. Chicago Teachers Union leaders are worried about internal “divisiveness” after a narrow vote to end standoff

An analysis prepared by the Chicago Teachers Union shows the “biggest worry” facing leaders after a heated standoff with city officials is “the divisiveness of Covid in our union.”

The Chicago Tribune obtained the internal analysis as the union’s rank-and-file members narrowly voted to accept a deal from city officials that provided few concessions.

The documents contain some surprising and frank assessments of the recent labor dispute, which was referred to as a “strike” in the analysis.

“Some members will say, ‘It wasn’t worth it.’ But we are grown-ups,” the analysis says. “We realize — when we walk out, we don’t get to know the outcome in advance. We also would have had NOTHING had we ducked this fight.” [Chicago Tribune]

3. A vast majority of Chicago residents, concerned about rising crime, say the city is on the wrong track, according to a new survey

A whopping 91% of Chicago residents say the city is heading in the wrong direction, according to a survey conducted for Crain’s Chicago Business and The Daily Line.

A key issue driving the negative perception appears to be concerns over crime that has significantly risen during the pandemic.

As Crain’s reports: “A total of 34% say they feel safe in their neighborhood, 76% say the city is somewhat or very unsafe, and 81% say the situation is worse compared to before COVID-19 hit.”

The survey was taken from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12 and included 831 people. As Crain’s reports, it’s unclear how much of the shifts in public opinion were a result from “the open nature of the survey attracting people who are particularly upset.”

But the findings could be bad news for Mayor Lori Lightfoot as the 2023 municipal election approaches. The survey found the mayor’s approval rating dipped to just 15%. [Crain’s]

4. Voting rights legislation appears to be in jeopardy

Senate Democrats may be back to square one in their push to pass voting rights legislation after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., today reiterated her opposition to eliminating the filibuster.

“While I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” Sinema said.

President Joe Biden afterward said he is “not sure” the legislation will pass Congress this year.

Civil rights groups have increasingly urged Democrats to pass voting rights legislation. They argue new voting laws passed by Republican state legislatures will disproportionately impact people of color.

But Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate. And Senate rules allowing the minority party to block legislation unless it reaches a 60-vote threshold means Democrats would need support from several Republicans. [AP]

5. Chicago’s South Side Irish Parade will return

I don’t know about you, but I really needed some good news this week. And lo and behold, the beloved South Side Irish Parade will return March 13 after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

If you’ve never been, the parade takes place in the Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods, giving it a much different vibe than the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Chicago.

“I’m excited because I think this is sorely needed certainly in my community, both for the residents but also our businesses,” Ald. Matt O’Shea told the Sun-Times. “Our businesses have struggled these past 22 months, and the last 10 days has been even more difficult” due to the vaccine mandate. [Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The FBI arrested the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, who is charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. [New York Times]
  • Prosecutors have filed 71 new charges against the suspect in last November’s Waukesha, Wis., parade tragedy that left six people dead and dozens more injured. [NPR]
  • A new law in Chicago requires employers to provide nannies, cleaners and other domestic workers with contracts. [WBEZ]
  • Illinois residents can now remove racist language from their property deeds. [WBEZ]

Oh, and one more thing …

Here’s one for plant lovers: An Agave guiengola at Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory is growing like crazy, clocking in at an astonishing 15 feet and 3 inches, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

In just 24 hours, the plant grew about 9 inches.

“I’m not sure what to say anymore,” Ray Jorgensen, a floriculturist at the conservatory, told the newspaper. “When we first did the research on it, [the literature] said 4 to 6 feet tall. … It’s just going crazy.”

The plant is expected to bloom in the coming weeks, a once-in-a-lifetime event that is 35 years in the making. [Sun-Times]

Tell me something good …

Libby and I need some new artists to listen to while we write the newsletter. Who do you recommend and why?

Cassie writes:

“You should check out Soft Speaker. It’s a Chicago band that managed to put out a pretty stellar album during the pandemic, even renting a house in the south suburbs for a live recording session during the height of COVID-19 drama in lieu of workshopping songs through live shows. COVID-19 has been tough on the arts industry (every industry) so cool to see a local band try to pull through when not many clubs are booking much live local music for going on two years.”

What are you listening to? Feel free to email me at or tweet me at @whuntah, and your responses might be shared here this week.

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.