WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: New COVID-19 Strain Reported In Chicago

COVID-19 Variant
Medical technicians prepare samples at the University Hospital Institute for Infectious Diseases in Marseille, southern France, Wednesday Jan. 13, 2021, to study the highly contagious COVID-19 variant that has been discovered in the UK. Daniel Cole / AP Photo
COVID-19 Variant
Medical technicians prepare samples at the University Hospital Institute for Infectious Diseases in Marseille, southern France, Wednesday Jan. 13, 2021, to study the highly contagious COVID-19 variant that has been discovered in the UK. Daniel Cole / AP Photo

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: New COVID-19 Strain Reported In Chicago

Hey there! It’s Friday, and just a heads up: The newsletter is taking a little break on Monday, but I’ll be back Tuesday. 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. Illinois reports first case of faster-spreading COVID-19 variant

Chicago health officials say a person who had recently traveled to the U.K. and the Middle East has been diagnosed with a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus. The Chicago Department of Public Health said it has reached out to people who may have been in close contact with the person.

The variant, which was first reported in Britain last month, is 50% more transmissible than the common variant, according to British health officials. But health officials say there is no indication it causes more severe illness. And there is no evidence the strain will render vaccinations ineffective. [WBEZ]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today said it estimates the variant will be the most dominant source of infections in the U.S. by March. According to the CDC’s projections, between 10% and 30% of the population has already been infected and recovered. [Washington Post]

As health officials try to understand the impact of the new variant, global deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2 million today. [AP]

2. The Trump administration doesn’t have a stockpile of vaccines

Cities and states across the country were expecting to see an influx of vaccine doses next week after the Trump administration announced it would release everything stored in reserves.

But The Washington Post reports the stockpile doesn’t exist, citing state and federal officials briefed on distribution plans. The newspaper reports the administration began shipping out all available doses at the end of December instead of putting some in reserves. They were also “taking second doses directly off the manufacturing line.”

Local officials across the country in recent days planned to begin moving forward with vaccinations of people 65 and over. But without a surge in available doses, those plans appear to be in jeopardy. [Washington Post]

3. Rioters were steps away from Pence during the siege at the U.S. Capitol

Vice President Mike Pence barely avoided being spotted by rioters during last week’s insurrection, according to The Washington Post.

“If the pro-Trump mob had arrived seconds earlier, they would have been in eyesight of the vice president as he was rushed across a reception hall into the office,” the newspaper reports.

Video from last week’s siege showed some rioters chanting, “Hang Pence!” as they entered the U.S. Capitol. One man charged by federal authorities said in a YouTube video that “once we found out Pence turned on us and that they had stolen the election, like, officially, the crowd went crazy. I mean, it became a mob.” [Washington Post]

Meanwhile, NPR created a timeline of what is known so far about the massive security failure at the Capitol. [NPR]

4. Pelosi doesn’t say when she’ll send article of impeachment to the Senate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today refused to provide a timeline of what will happen next in the second impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Pelosi said the House managers who have been tapped as prosecutors are ready to make their case in the Senate, but she wouldn’t say when the article of impeachment will be sent to the Senate, which would then have to immediately hold a trial.

Behind the scenes, Democratic and Republican leaders are exploring the possibility of splitting the Senate’s time between an impeachment trial and addressing Biden’s agenda, which includes the confirmation of Cabinet members and a nearly $2 trillion economic relief bill.

Pelsoi also announced that retired Lt. General Russel Honoré will lead a review of the massive security failure at the U.S. Capitol. [ABC News]

Meanwhile, almost 6 in 10 Americans blame Trump for the deadly insurrection, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. [NPR]

5. More cops in Chicago and across the country are quitting

Chicago reported that 560 officers retired in 2020, a 15% increase from the previous years, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The increase in retirements come as police departments throughout the nation face more scrutiny following a summer of protests against police brutality and racial inequality. And Chicago is not the only city facing a surge in retirements. New York City reported 2,500 officers retired last year, nearly double the number in 2019.

“It’s serious,” Michael Lappe, vice president of the board of trustees for the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, told the Sun-Times. “A lot of these people aren’t retiring. They’re quitting.” [Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Here’s a look at how state capitals are preparing for possible attacks in the coming days. [Vox]
  • Early vaccination data in Chicago show a disparity between majority white neighborhoods and minority communities. [Chicago Tribune]
  • About 1.6 million Facebook users in Illinois will receive about $350 each from a privacy lawsuit settlement. [Chicago Tribune]
  • If you’re like me and struggling to find a new TV show to watch, Disney+ released WandaVision, marking a new phase for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

The Washington Post has a harrowing and chilling report on how D.C. police officers tried to push back a mob from entering the Capitol. Officer Michael Fanone, who has been on the force since 9/11, said he and his partner sped toward the Capitol after receiving a citywide emergency call.

“They were overthrowing the Capitol, the seat of democracy, and I f---ing went,” Fanone said.

Police Officer Daniel Hodges was caught between the interior glass doors at the Capitol as rioters ripped off his helmet, took his baton and sprayed him with bear spray.

“I didn’t want to be the guy who starts shooting, because I knew they had guns — we had been seizing guns all day,” he told the Post. “And the only reason I could think of that they weren’t shooting us was they were waiting for us to shoot first. And if it became a firefight between a couple hundred officers and a couple thousand demonstrators, we would have lost.” [WaPo]

Tell me something good …

What’s your favorite comfort food to eat in the winter?

Marisa Riis writes:

“I love making a kale, quinoa, garbanzo bean, diced fire roasted tomatoes, onion soup. I also put in parmesan rinds. It gives the soup a deep richness. I usually make this soup on the weekends, and my son and I eat bowls and bowls. So comforting.”

Thanks for all the responses this week. I’m sorry I couldn’t get back to everyone, but it was nice hearing from you.

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