Hey, it’s Wednesday, and WBEZ’s pop-up store is open this week with tons of swag. You won’t find my bootleg “Take it W-B-Easy” T-shirt in there, but I’m working on it! Here’s what you need to know today.
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From firefighters to street sweepers to City Hall clerks, all city employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced today in a statement.
But the mayor’s office did not say what steps would be taken against workers who miss the deadline or refuse to get vaccinated. There will be some exemptions for medical and religious reasons.
Today’s news sets up a fight with the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, which represents rank-and-file officers and has repeatedly said it would oppose a vaccine mandate. [WBEZ]
Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, FOP President John Catanzara today went on a “profanity-laced tirade” and compared vaccination mandates to the Nazi Party’s treatment of Jewish people, an argument made by far-right conservatives that has been condemned by Holocaust survivors and Jewish organizations.
“We’re in America, goddamn it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi f***ing Germany, [where they say], ‘Step into the f***ing showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the f***?” he told the newspaper. [Sun-Times]
Meanwhile, the Pentagon today ordered all military troops to immediately get vaccinated now that the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. [AP]
Despite a looming housing crisis, only 11% of tens of billions of dollars set aside to help Americans behind on rent has been dispersed by state and local governments, the Treasury Department announced today.
The slow pace comes as the Supreme Court could strike down a federal extension of an eviction moratorium, which is currently set to expire Oct. 3. But even if the court upholds the moratorium, the program’s sluggish pace could mean many people may not get housing aid before the cut-off date.
About 3.5 million people said they were at risk of being evicted in the next two months, according to a census survey released this month. [AP]
In Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker last week quietly extended the state’s moratorium to Sept. 18. [Chicago Sun-Times]
With just days until the U.S. removes all troops from Afghanistan, the Biden administration says it will continue evacuating U.S. citizens and Afghans until the final hours.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken today said as many as 1,500 Americans are waiting to be evacuated, a number that suggests U.S. airlifts could be completed before the Aug. 31 deadline for removing troops. A Pentagon spokesman said more than 80,000 people, mostly Afghans, have been airlifted since Aug. 14. [AP]
Meanwhile, WBEZ’s Adora Namigadde talked to a suburban Chicago man whose wife and three children were visiting relatives in Afghanistan as the Taliban quickly took control.
“I desperately tried to take them out somehow. So I checked around for help and asked my in-laws over there if it was possible to look for flights and take them out before anything bad happens to them,” said Ali, who asked WBEZ to withhold his last name until his family arrives home safely. “Because nobody could predict what was going to happen. Some cities were taken without any resistance by the Afghan army.”
His family was able to fly to Qatar on Saturday, but they still don’t know when they’ll be able to fly home. [WBEZ]
The Chicago area is expected to see unusually high temperatures the rest of this week after yesterday’s record breaking 95-degrees — the hottest Aug. 24 in 20 years, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Tomorrow and Friday could see highs around 90 degrees, but the heat index could hover around 100 degrees. Storms are also possible today and tomorrow night.
“This will be one of the hotter stretches we’ve had,” Ricky Castro, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the newspaper. [Tribune]
The company announced today that preliminary data shows a second dose generated a strong immune response to fight off infections. The data have not yet been published in a scientific journal or reviewed by other researchers.
The news comes as the Biden administration prepares to roll out booster shots next month, and Johnson & Johnson is expected to seek federal approval to be included in the initial wave of boosters. [NPR]
In Chicago, 63.7% of residents 12 years and over are fully vaccinated, city data shows. Officials are also reporting a seven-day average of 436 cases per day as of Aug. 20. That’s down 3% from the previous week. The positivity rate, which is also declining, is 4.4%. [COVID Dashboard]
Here’s what else is happening
- The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection has expanded its probe to former President Donald Trump and his top officials. [NPR]
- Chicago next week will change how authorities handle mental health crises. [WBEZ]
- Kanye West’s listening party tomorrow at Chicago’s Soldier Field will not require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. [Chicago Tribune]
- A 30-year-old man is suing Nirvana for using a naked picture of him when he was a baby for the band’s iconic Nevermind album cover. [NPR]
Oh, and one more thing …
A water resort inside Chicago’s Thompson Center? That’s one of the proposals on the table in a competition for repurposing the longtime hub for state government, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
If you’re not familiar with the Thompson Center, it’s a massive building designed by famed architect Helmut Jahn and home to a giant food court, a DMV, a CTA train station and an unrelenting vibe of regret.
But the Sun-Times has an image for the waterpark proposal and it looks bonkers. Was its inspiration a pile of crazy straws? And how do you not fall out of those slides and crash on top of the people below? [Sun-Times]
Tell me something good …
Since it’s my nephew’s birthday this week, I’d like to know: What was one of the best gifts you ever received?
Mary Jo writes:
“My best birthday gift was from my 20-year-old son on my 55th birthday. He made a playlist of 55 songs and included a few sentences as to why each song made him think of me or reminded him of things we had done together. That was nearly four years ago, and I still reread the explanation for each song every time I listen to the playlist!”
And Katherine P. writes:
“When my youngest brother (who is almost 63 now) was 5, his Christmas present to me was three wooden rulers, labeled ‘for home,’ ‘for school’ and ‘for extra.’ I still have the ‘for home’ ruler!”
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