Hey there! It’s Thursday, and I’m wondering if I too can get Thin Mints delivered by drone. Here’s what you need to know today.
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Mayor Lori Lightfoot today announced Chicago is immediately relaxing COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants, performances, flea markets and other events after the city’s positivity rate dropped below 5% for the first time since March.
Under the new guidelines, some restaurants and bars can open up to 100 people; large indoor events can operate at 25% capacity; and restrictions at social events like weddings will exclude vaccinated guests.
Outdoor festivals can allow 15 people per 1,000 square feet. To put that into perspective, that would allow for around 9,135 people at a summer music festival like Pitchfork. Or, double that amount if Chicago moves to its next reopening phase by then. [WBEZ]
In Illinois, public health officials today reported 3,394 new COVID-19 cases and 36 more deaths. [WBEZ]
Statewide, 30% of residents are fully vaccinated and 46% have gotten their first shot. [NYT]
The Commerce Department reported today the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 6.4% between January and March — a marked change from last year when the economy shrank by 2.5%. Some experts are predicting this is the first step to the strongest annual growth in almost 40 years.
What’s driving the shift? Economists point to a ramped-up COVID-19 vaccination campaign and the $1,400 stimulus payments that were included as part of a federal pandemic relief bill. The progress stands in sharp contrast to Europe, which is expected to report a downtick in growth amid a slower vaccine rollout.
“The course of the virus determines the course of the economy,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “What we’ve seen in the Eurozone is really the mantra we’ve had to live with for the last year.” [NPR]
Meanwhile, the U.S. labor market continues to bounce back, with new unemployment claims dropping to their lowest level since the pandemic began. First-time claims fell to 553,000 last week, down from 566,000 the week before, the Labor Department announced today. There were about 200,000 weekly claims submitted before the pandemic. [WSJ]
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker today presented a massive energy plan that would lessen the state’s reliance on fossil fuels and establish new checks and balances in Springfield following the ComEd bribery scandal.
The bill will call for $200 million in restitution for ComEd customers and put an end to the power company’s automatic rate increases, WBEZ’s Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold report.
Pritzker’s proposal also authorizes $350 million in subsidies to stop two Exelon nuclear power plants from shutting down and offers $4,000 rebates to anyone who buys an electric vehicle.
Pritzker’s legislative splash adds to a series of competing energy bills now pending in the legislature. Aides have said the governor will veto any utility legislation sent to him if strong utility ethics safeguards aren’t included. [WBEZ]
Meanwhile, David Fein, a former Exelon lobbyist who was fired after being accused of sexual harassment, now faces a $6,000 fine. [WBEZ]
4. Investigation into botched Chicago police raid reveals “significant deficiencies” with search warrant policy
A Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigation into the botched raid of the home of Anjanette Young found “significant deficiencies” in the Police Department’s policy and training on search warrants, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Young, who had been getting ready for bed when officers mistakenly raided her home, was forced to stand naked and was handcuffed for nearly 10 minutes before she was allowed to get dressed.
Body-cam footage of the 2019 incident was released in December despite opposition from the city’s Law Department, sparking mass outrage.
Police Superintendent David Brown now has 30 days to decide whether to levy administrative charges against the officers involved. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Three local restaurants have been awarded Michelin stars, an honor given by a French tire company that for some reason doubles as a restaurant reviewer, for the first time.
Ever, which opened in Fulton Market in 2020, and Moody Tongue Brewing Company, which opened in the South Loop in 2019, each picked up two stars, while Spanish and Portuguese seafood restaurant Porto earned one.
Rocked by COVID-19 closures, this year’s ratings have taken on special meaning for the restaurant industry.
“We celebrated barely three months of service and then shut down,” said Ever’s Michael Muser. “It was just a really nice thing for them to even put us in the book for three months of service. Dude, it’s an honor.”
Michelin star restaurants Band of Bohemia, Blackbird, Everest and Kikko all shuttered during the pandemic. [Chicago Tribune]
Here’s what else is happening
The U.S. is investigating a possible invisible energy attack near the White House. [CNN]
Several Chicago-area hospitals received low grades in a new quality and safety report. [Chicago Tribune]
Need a chicken with that blouse? Local shopping malls are searching for ways to remain useful. [WBEZ]
A Great Gatsby musical from Florence Welch got the green light. [Vulture]
The NFL Draft starts tonight. Will the Bears take a quarterback? [Chicago Tribune]
Oh, and one more thing …
Listen to the moo-sic?
A Danish cello school is partnering with cattle farmers to put on concerts for an unusual audience: a corral of cows.
While the collaboration started as an attempt to draw attention to the school and its young musicians in residence, it also brought the rural community together during the COVID-19 pandemic, The New York Times reports. Plus, the cows seem to enjoy it — although it’s unclear whether the tunes have affected the quality of their meat.
“It’s actually nice playing for cows,” said cellist Johannes Gray. “They really do come over to you. And they have preferences. … They’re not really Dvorak fans.” [NYT]
If only my cat would give me similar feedback on my nightly shower karaoke sessions.
Tell me something good …
Next Monday marks the 50th anniversary of NPR’s All Things Considered. To celebrate, I want to know: What’s your favorite NPR memory?
Christine W. writes:
“An NPR moment that really sticks with me is from many years ago. It was a story on how coffee beans would soon be piped directly into homes, just like water or gas. It was a full story with factory interviews and coffee roasting experts. It was so implausible and so convincing. It took a couple hours before I realized it was April Fool’s Day.”
Susan Quaintance writes:
“Just last fall, I had to pull off [the road] because I was so excited. Scott Simon was talking to ESPN reporter Michele Steele during Weekend Edition. Michele was one of the smartest and funniest women I ever taught at St. Scholastica Academy in Rogers Park.”
And Jeff Nowak writes:
“I remember when Anna Nicole Smith died. In my mind, she’d been a joke of a celebrity, and a joke of a person, and therefore a joke of a death. On a Saturday morning, I was listening to Scott Simon when he suddenly read this utterly empathetic story of Anna Nicole Smith’s life. It made me realize that I was a jerk, and that I could be better. Scott Simon did the impossible. He changed a person’s mind.”
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