WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Lightfoot Asks Chicagoans To Stay Home

Chicago Stay At Home Sign
Mayor Lori Lightfoot today urged all Chicagoans not to leave their homes or have any social gatherings for 30 days as COVID-19 cases surge across Illinois. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
Chicago Stay At Home Sign
Mayor Lori Lightfoot today urged all Chicagoans not to leave their homes or have any social gatherings for 30 days as COVID-19 cases surge across Illinois. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Lightfoot Asks Chicagoans To Stay Home

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Good afternoon! It’s Thursday, and I just had my first Starbucks peppermint mocha of the year. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Lightfoot issues a stay-at-home “advisory” — but it isn’t an order

Mayor Lori Lightfoot today urged all Chicagoans not to leave their homes or have any social gatherings for 30 days as COVID-19 cases surge across Illinois.

But it’s unclear how City Hall plans to enforce the so-called “Stay-At-Home Advisory,” which goes into effect at 6 a.m. Monday.

“If changes are not made by Chicago residents, businesses, and visitors to mitigate the spread

of COVID-19, the city is on track to lose 1,000 more Chicagoans by the end of the year or even more,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

The “Stay-At-Home Advisory” asks that Chicagoans not leave their homes except for groceries, medical appointments, school or work. Lightfoot also wants residents not to invite over friends or family and not to travel outside the state or have contact with someone who has left the state.

The only binding parts of the order are that nonessential businesses must close by 11 p.m. and indoor and outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people.

The news comes as Chicago’s weekly average of daily coronavirus cases is at 1,920 — up 36% from the previous week. The city’s positivity rate is at 14%, with certain areas of the city at 25%, Lightfoot said. [WBEZ]

Throughout the state, there were 12,702 new COVID-19 cases and 43 more deaths, officials reported today. The state is now seeing a weekly average of 11,362 cases per day, an increase of 127% from the average two weeks ago. [New York Times]

Illinois is one of only five states with more than 500,000 cumulative cases. Here are five charts to explain the state’s numbers. [Chicago Tribune]

Nationwide, the U.S. reported 142,860 more COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours as states ramp up for the biggest vaccination effort in history. [AP]

And here’s a look at the last “coronavirus-free” places in the world. [AP]

2. Jobless claims drop, but will consumers spend during COVID-19 surge?

In a sign the economy might be slowly healing, the number of new people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week from 757,000 to 709,000 — the lowest figure since March. Yet, jobless claims still remained above their peak during the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

Overall, the total number of people who receive unemployment benefits fell from 7.2 million to 6.8 million, which suggests more Americans are finding jobs. However, the decline could also indicate many jobless people have used up their state aid and have transitioned to extended benefits from the federal government.

But experts say the return of cold weather and state-imposed restrictions could hurt the job market by limiting travel, eating out, visiting gyms and shopping.

So far, the latest coronavirus spike hasn’t triggered a wave of new layoffs. In fact, the number of unemployment applications fell last week in 29 states, including in hot spots like Illinois and Wisconsin. [AP]

Meanwhile, the impasse over a coronavirus stimulus package continued. Top Democrats today urged renewed negotiations, but Republicans immediately rejected their proposal. [Reuters]

3. More Republican leaders recognize Biden’s victory

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and strategist Karl Rove are the latest influential Republicans to recognize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The acknowledgements came even as President Donald Trump and many Senate Republicans have refused to concede and congratulate Biden.

The New York Times reports two forces have swayed Republicans: fear of Trump’s influence and the outcome of Georgia’s Senate runoff races, which will determine the party that controls the Senate. [New York Times]

And the refusal to acknowledge Biden’s victory fits within a broader pattern of rising authoritarianism within the Republican Party, according to data released by an international team of political scientists.

“The Republican Party in the U.S. has retreated from upholding democratic norms in recent years,” one of the report’s scientists said. “It is disturbing that most leading Republicans are still not objecting to President Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud and attempts to declare himself the winner.” [Washington Post]

Meanwhile, the law firm representing Trump’s campaign is facing blowback from students and anti-Trump groups. [Reuters]

4. Chicago saw a huge spike in arsons this year

Chicago police have investigated at least 477 arsons this year — the most in more than a decade, according to a data analysis by Block Club Chicago. About one-third of the cases involved cars that were intentionally set on fire.

Experts and local officials can’t definitely say why arsons are up almost 58%, but the pandemic, an unstable economy and civil unrest are likely causes. [Block Club Chicago]

Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers are looking to strengthen the state’s system of certifying and decertifying law enforcement professionals. [Capitol News Illinois]

5. Appeals court clears Harvard of racial bias in admissions

A federal appeals court in Boston today upheld a ruling that clears Harvard University of discriminating against Asian American applicants. The decision moves the case one step closer to being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Students for Fair Admissions’ lawsuit alleged that “Harvard’s admissions officers use a subjective ‘personal rating’ to discriminate against Asian Americans who apply to the school,” reports The Associated Press. “Using six years of admissions data, the group found that Asian American applicants had the best academic records but received the lowest scores on the personal rating.”

The federal appeals court justices wrote that although Harvard’s rating may be correlated with race, the link is more likely to be caused by outside factors, including students’ personal essays or letters of recommendation.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that colleges can consider race as a limited factor to promote campus diversity. But if this case makes it to the highest court, some legal experts believe the justices may further limit the use of race in admissions or forbid it entirely. [AP]

Here’s what else is happening

  • U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood won reelection in a close race. [WBEZ]
  • Voter turnout in the 2020 election was the highest in more than a century. [Washington Post]
  • The man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery had previously used racial slurs in a text message, according to prosecutors. [AP]
  • Behold the “Potato Head” of Palencia, another botched art restoration in Spain. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

Meet the two people, aged 72 and 63, who had been adding an extra “S” to Douglas Park signs long before the Chicago Park District decided to change the name to honor Frederick Douglass.

The women, who call themselves “Vandal 1” and “Vandal 2,” added and maintained an extra “S” on the 170-acre park’s 47 signs for more than a year.

The pair said they were inspired by a group of middle school students who first fought for the change. When the park district was slow to act, the vandals got an idea: “We just sort of said, ‘Well, why can’t we just change the name? Let’s just go do it.’ ”

Their techniques evolved over time, from glueing paper “S’s” that fell apart in the rain, to stencils and glossy paint. The two vandals were never outed or caught, even though they worked in daylight. They said they did it to support the middle schoolers.

“Old white ladies are invisible,” Vandal 1 said. “And we used that secret power.” [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

I’ve decided I want some holiday cheer right now, so I’m decorating my house for Christmas this week. Are you looking forward to a holiday tradition or celebration as 2020 starts to come to a close? Or perhaps trying something new this year?

Arielle writes:

“I’m Jewish, my mama’s Jewish, my two little boys are Jewish and this year, thanks to COVID-19, we’re going to have to find our first Christmas tree.

My husband is Russian, and we always celebrate Russian New Years (read: discount Christmas tree plus New Year’s revelry with vodka, mayonnaise and a healthy dose of sentimental folk music) by my mother-in-law. This year, thanks to the pandemic, we won’t be traveling, so we’ll be in the market for our very own second-hand Christmas tree, an unholy amount of mayonnaise, vodka and the finest herring money can buy.”

And Christiane writes:

“For the actual holiday, my husband and I are renting a tent in Joshua Tree National Park and [will] spend a week counting stars … far away from Corona, people, masks, elections …”

Feel free to email or tweet me, and your response might appear here this week.

Thanks for reading and have a nice night! We’ll see you tomorrow.