Hey there! It’s Monday, and I can’t get over this Golden Globes tweet that implies “West Side Story” is a comedy. Here’s what you need to know today.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said on Monday that the union and the city have made some progress at the bargaining table, but the two sides remain at odds over the metric for when individual schools would revert to remote learning, reports WBEZ’s Sarah Karp.
Sharkey said the union had compromised on an earlier push for a benchmark that would trigger a districtwide return to home instruction and their demand that all students be eligible for COVID-19 testing unless their parents opt them out.
But he said they’ve “hit a brick wall” over when individual schools would return to at-home learning. During the press conference, Sharkey also called Mayor Lori Lightfoot “relentlessly stupid,” but quickly moved on.
The mayor’s office referred to a Sunday night statement from Lightfoot and the schools CEO: “Although we have been negotiating hard throughout the day, there has not been sufficient progress for us to predict a return to class tomorrow.”
CPS classes have been canceled since last Wednesday. [WBEZ]
A record surge of COVID-19 cases in Chicago is putting an enormous strain on hospitals as the fast-spreading omicron variant sends an influx of mostly unvaccinated patients to emergency rooms, WBEZ’s Hunter Clauss and Anna Savchenko report.
In a city of more than 2.7 million residents, there were only 120 intensive care beds available over the weekend, meaning about 88% of beds for the most severely ill patients were in use. About 83% of non-ICU beds were occupied. Health officials are also seeing a rise in hospitalizations from children.
“This is probably the most strained or particularly awful it’s been throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Sajal Tanna, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “We’re stretched so thin right now.”
And the situation could become even more perilous if the current wave of infections doesn’t subside soon, especially for smaller hospitals located in areas of the city with low vaccination rates. St. Bernard Hospital in Englewood, for example, didn’t have a single ICU bed available on Sunday, according to a spokesman. [WBEZ]
As the pandemic enters its third year, a new poll finds Americans are more concerned about the economy than the virus.
Just 37% of respondents to the recent AP-NORC survey said the virus was one of their top five priorities for the government in 2022, compared with 53% at this time last year. About 68% of respondents mentioned the economy as a top issue.
Meanwhile, “roughly twice as many Americans now mention their household finances, namely, the cost of living, as a governmental priority, 24% vs. 12% last year,” according to the Associated Press.
While the poll was taken in early December, before the nation began seeing the worst effects of the omicron surge, many participants said in follow-up interviews that their views hadn’t changed. That could pose challenges for Democrats who planned to campaign on successfully managing the virus during the 2022 midterms.
“It’s certainly not the victory the Democrats thought it would be,” said Adam Brandon, president of the conservative activist group FreedomWorks. “We’ll have another wave next year, and I just don’t think anyone’s going to care.” [AP]
But the pledge wasn’t enough to ease tensions about the 100,000 Russian troops stationed along Ukraine’s eastern border.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said after today’s high-stakes meeting in Geneva that the U.S. would increase sanctions and provide military assistance to the former Soviet country if Russia violated its sovereignty.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said “there is no reason to fear some kind of escalatory scenario.”
Also a topic of discussion was the expansion of NATO, a Western alliance of which the U.S. is a member. To maintain influence in the region, Russian leaders have sought to preclude Ukraine and Georgia, another former Soviet country, from joining the group. [NPR]
The Chicago Bears are hoping that new leadership will turn around the franchise, which has made the playoffs just seven times in the past 30 years.
Whoever is hired to replace ousted coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace will need to develop young quarterback Justin Fields, surround him with more talent on offense and overhaul a defense that has slipped in recent seasons.
AP sports writer Andrew Seligman noted the Bears were 2-8 in games that Fields started, and the inconsistent rookie “had more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (seven) and an unimpressive 73.2 passer rating.” [AP]
Here’s a look at who might be in the coaching candidate pool. [Sun-Times]
Here’s what else is happening
Bundle up, Chicago — tonight could be the coldest of the season. [Sun-Times]
A judge ruled tennis star Novak Djokovic can remain in Australia despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19. [NYT]
Bob Saget, who played beloved TV dad Danny Tanner on Full House, died at 65. [CNN]
Illinois residents can visit the Shedd Aquarium for free Jan. 13-17. [Block Club Chicago]
Oh, and one more thing …
What do Adele, Ed Sheeran and a bunch of birds have in common? Back in December, they were all more popular than Taylor Swift — at least Down Under.
While records from Adele and Sheeran have been mainstays on Australia’s top albums chart for weeks, Songs of Disappearance, which features the calls of 53 endangered fowl, briefly overtook Swift’s spot in the pecking order last month.
Conservationists hope the surprise hit boosts awareness about the country’s at-risk species.
“When we have community on board, that brings pressure on board to government to do the right thing,” said Sean Dooley of the group Birdlife Australia. “We know that these conservation actions do work.” [NPR]
Tell me something good …
Speaking of music, I’ve been looking for some new artists to freshen up my playlists. Who do you recommend and why?
I personally can’t get enough of Snail Mail, whose angsty 2021 album Valentine included my most-listened to song of the year. Catch me at the Riv singing/crying along this spring!
What about you? Feel free to email or tweet us, and your responses might be shared here this week.