The Rundown: Where does the pandemic go from here?

vaccines
Prepared Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine syringes are seen at London Middle School in Wheeling, Ill., Friday, June 11, 2021. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo
vaccines
Prepared Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine syringes are seen at London Middle School in Wheeling, Ill., Friday, June 11, 2021. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

The Rundown: Where does the pandemic go from here?

Hey there! It’s Thursday, and the weather is making me think of simpler times, like when I was trapped in Denver on Sunday. 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. Will there be another winter surge of infections? Or is the U.S. moving in a different direction?

As the cliché goes, winter is coming, and health experts are debating whether the worst is behind the nation.

Some scientists say there is reason to be optimistic. Nationally, hospitalizations and deaths are dropping, and almost 70% of adults are vaccinated. Young children will soon be eligible for shots, and drugmakers are moving forward with antiviral pills for COVID-19.

But other experts are essentially saying, “We’ve heard that before.” And they are cautioning people to not let their guard down as the pandemic is not over. Many Americans remain unvaccinated, and there is still much that remains unknown about the coronavirus.

“We’ve done this again and again, where we let the foot off the pedal too early,” Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy & Research at Boston University, told The New York Times. “It behooves us to be a bit more cautious as we’re trying to get to that finish line.” [NYT]

Meanwhile, an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration today endorsed Moderna’s booster shot. [AP]

2. Chicago’s vaccine mandate goes into effect tomorrow for city workers. Will cops show their cards?

Tomorrow marks the deadline for city workers to report their vaccination status, and the stakes are particularly high for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration after similar mandates in New York and California were overwhelmingly successful.

How many workers, especially police officers, will comply? The head of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police this week urged rank-and-file officers to not report their vaccination status, which would cause them to be sent home without pay. Critics accuse the FOP of essentially holding the city’s public safety hostage in a game of chicken with Lightfoot. [Chicago Tribune]

COVID-19 is now the leading duty-related cause of death for law enforcement officers, with more than 460 officers across the nation dying from infections, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. [New York Times]

As Chicago’s FOP stepped up its opposition to Lightfoot’s mandate this week, a former president of the union died from COVID-19. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools will allow employees who are not fully vaccinated to continue to work so long as they are regularly tested. [Chicago Tribune]

3. Jan. 6 select committee seeks to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt

A congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection will vote next week to recommend criminal contempt charges against Trump ally Steve Bannon, who failed to show up for a deposition before the panel today.

Bannon’s refusal to engage with the select committee is the first major test of how the panel will respond to uncooperative witnesses. If the lawmakers vote for charges against Bannon, then the Justice Department will decide whether to prosecute the former Trump aide.

The committee has issued 19 subpoenas so far as part of its sprawling probe into the attack on the Capitol. [AP]

Meanwhile, a federal judge has repeatedly handed down longer prison sentences than prosecutors had sought against people who stormed the Capitol.

“There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government, beyond sitting at home,” the judge said at one hearing. [Reuters]

4. Congress begins taking significant steps in curbing Big Tech’s power

Two proposals in the House and Senate are aimed at reining in the tech industry, and the plans could signal the beginning of something much bigger as both Democrats and Republicans have grown increasingly frustrated with Silicon Valley.

The Washington Post reports that a bipartisan group of senators plan to introduce a bill that would prevent companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google from engaging in certain ways that disadvantage smaller rivals on their platforms, like Google prioritizing its own services in search results. [WaPo]

Meanwhile in the House, lawmakers are expected to introduce a bill tomorrow that would remove liability protections for social media platforms and other websites that recommend content that leads to real-world harm, reports Axios.

“The time for self-regulation is over, and this bill holds them accountable,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ. [Axios]

5. Biden administration seeks a massive expansion of wind farms along the U.S. coastline

The Biden administration wants to build seven large-scale wind farms along almost the entire U.S. coastline in what is being called the federal government’s most significant investment in offshore wind energy.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland this week said her department hopes to lease federal waters by 2025 off the coasts of Maine, New York and the mid-Atlantic, as well as the Carolinas, California, Oregon and the Gulf of Mexico, reports The Associated Press.

“The Interior Department is laying out an ambitious road map as we advance the administration’s plans to confront climate change, create good-paying jobs and accelerate the nation’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” Haaland said. [AP]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Authorities in Norway say a bow-and-arrow attack that killed five people and wounded two others appears to be an act of terrorism. [NPR]
  • China is preparing to send three astronauts to live on its space station for six months, the longest crewed space mission for the country. [AP]
  • Electric scooters could hit the road in Downtown Chicago next year. [Block Club Chicago]
  • A Chicago alderman wants to turn down the music on boat parties in the so-called Playpen, which is superbly described by the Tribune as a “kind of Waterworld club scene.” [Trib]

Oh, and one more thing …

This story is so bonkers. Ruth Hamilton, a 66-year-old woman living in British Columbia, woke up one night after her dog started barking. And then she heard an “explosion” that she thought may have been a tree falling into her house.

But then she looked at her bed and saw “a large charcoal gray object between her two floral pillows,” reports The New York Times.

Turns out the rock was a 2.8-pound meteorite the size of a large fist that barely missed her head.

“It just seems surreal,” Hamilton told the newspaper. “Then I’ll go in and look in the room and, yep, there’s still a hole in my ceiling. Yep, that happened.” [NYT]

Tell me something good …

Halloween is getting closer and closer. So what’s the scariest spot in Chicago?

Kathy writes:

“Resurrection Cemetery — long a hangout for the ghost, Resurrection Mary! Also, some very creepy effigies of children in glass cases at Calvary Cemetery. I don’t think that cemetery reports [are] as haunted as Resurrection, but it’s close. Also, Lincoln Park still has many undiscovered burials (many were moved but not all) from the Civil War era.”

Feel free to email me at therundown@wbez.org or tweet me at @whuntah, and your responses might be shared here this week.

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