WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Trump’s Vaccination Plan Is Falling Behind

Registered Nurse Ange Angarita prepares to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to Pamela Duenly, the President and CEO at Elmhurst Hospital on Dec. 12, 2020. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Registered Nurse Ange Angarita prepares to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to Pamela Duenly, the President and CEO at Elmhurst Hospital on Dec. 12, 2020. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Trump’s Vaccination Plan Is Falling Behind

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Hi! It’s Tuesday, and everyone in my household except me is on vacation. At least I have my dog, Atlas, to keep me company while I work. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Biden says vaccination distribution plan is lagging as coronavirus cases skyrocket

President-elect Joe Biden said today that the Trump administration’s promise to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year is falling behind. The speech was Biden’s most extensive comments since he laid out his plan for his first 100 days in office.

“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said, adding that at the current pace, “It’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.” [New York Times]

Only about 2.1 million people have been vaccinated just days before the new year, and just 11.4 million doses have been sent to states. [Washington Post]

The press conference comes just hours after Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN the current surge in cases “has just gotten out of control in so many respects.” [Washington Post]

In Illinois, officials reported 106 more COVID-19 deaths and 5,644 new cases, a 38% decrease from the average two weeks ago. [WBEZ]

And few South and West side residents have received COVID-19 shots so far compared to North Siders. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, the European Union’s campaign to vaccinate 450 million people is off to an uneven start. [Reuters]

Here’s a look at how COVID-19 took over the world, and where the worst-hit countries stand after nearly one year. [AP]

2. Vote on $2,000 stimulus checks blocked in Senate — for now

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., blocked consideration of the House bill that would give many Americans $2,000 instead of $600 as part of the COVID-19 relief bill. President Donald Trump, who signed the bill on Sunday, supports the larger payments.

This is just the beginning of a saga “that is likely to engulf the Senate for the rest of the week,” reports The Washington Post. A wave of GOP senators have indicated they’ll vote for the increase, including Georgia’s two Republican senators who are in a reelection battle that will decide the Senate majority in 2021.

However, McConnell said Trump also wanted to put new curbs on large tech companies and that the two issues should be dealt with together. [Washington Post]

The other issue before the Senate this week is whether to overturn Trump’s veto of the annual defense spending bill, which the House voted to overturn last night. [NPR]

3. CPS says most teachers told to work next week will be expected to show up

Chicago Public Schools announced today that it expects 83% of the 7,000 teachers and staff assigned to serve the first students returning for in-person learning to be physically present in school buildings on Monday to prepare.

Nearly 30% of those teachers and staff applied to work from home or not work at all, but over half of the requests processed so far have been denied.

The first wave of students, which includes preschoolers and students with moderate to severe disabilities, will return to classrooms on Jan. 11.

The Chicago Teachers Union vehemently opposed forcing staff back into buildings and plans to hold an emergency meeting tomorrow.

CPS officials would not directly answer questions about what will happen if staff refuse to show up. District officials insist it’s safe to return to schools and that they are working with staff to make them feel more comfortable returning. [WBEZ]

4. Boeing 737 Max resumes flying in the U.S.

The Boeing 737 Max plane returned to American skies today for the first time in almost two years during an American Airlines’ flight from Miami to New York City.

The Max was grounded worldwide in 2019 after 346 people were killed in two different crashes just months apart. Later revelations about the plane’s shortcomings — and the oversight process at Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration — cost Boeing tens of billions in damages, government fines and lost orders.

Last month, the U.S. became the first country to lift the grounding order if the planes got software updates and modified wiring. Brazil also lifted their grounding order, and officials in Canada and Europe could do the same in the coming weeks. [New York Times]

In other flight news, U.S. air travel hit a pandemic record this weekend, with more than 1.2 million people passing through airports Sunday. Still, travel is down at least 55% compared with before the coronavirus. [Washington Post]

5. A year without jury trials has “exposed every weakness that exists” in the Cook County court system

There hasn’t been a jury trial in a Cook County courtroom in nine months because of the coronavirus pandemic, and that’s led to an even greater backlog as nearly 9,000 people are now awaiting trial.

The result, Cook County attorneys said, is thousands of people whose lives are basically on hold, victims and the accused alike. They describe clients who were weeks away from trial before the pandemic and who will end up waiting an extra year or more for their day in court.

Plus, people locked up in Cook County jail are at greater risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease, and pandemic precautions make it hard for them to participate in their own defense.

“My clients are in limbo, and they are frustrated. They’re dispirited,” Defense attorney Cathryn Crawford told WBEZ’s Patrick Smith. “It’s really, really disheartening.” [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Anjanette Young called off a private meeting with the mayor after Lightfoot declined to participate in a public forum. [Block Club Chicago]

  • A magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit Croatia. [AP]

  • A federal judge has blocked two Georgia counties from purging voter rolls before the runoff election. [New York Times]

  • Here’s where you can recycle Christmas trees in Chicago. [Block Club Chicago]

Oh, and one more thing …

Netflix has a new reality food show out that should appeal to many in the great age of takeout.

Best Leftovers Ever!, which comes out tomorrow, asks contestants to make new dishes out of a variety of leftovers.

“If the audience can walk away and go back to their fridge and say, ‘Hey, I’m not going to throw this away, I’m actually going to make something amazing out of it,’ then we did our job,” said comedian and judge David So.

Personally, it’s a great relief to have one more cooking show to watch after finishing off The Great British Baking Show, Sugar Rush, Zumbo’s Just Desserts, The American Barbecue Showdown … well you get the picture.

Don’t mind me while I rush to the fridge to figure out what I can do with roasted carrots, chicken lo mein and sugar cookie dough. Feel free to send suggestions. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Tell me something good …

There’s been a lot of bad in 2020, but I want to know: What’s one thing that’s been great?

Jian Ping writes:

“My one good thing in 2020 was finishing walking Camino de Santiago — the 500-mile pilgrimage from St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain — virtually.

“Since I had to cancel my trip due to the pandemic … I invited my daughter in France, a friend in Japan and another friend in New Jersey to join me. They all agreed. So our small team across three continents created a chat room and a chart where we shared our daily encounters and progress. I walked my virtual Camino mostly in Grant Park and then along the Lakefront Trail when it was reopened. We walked every day, rain or shine, and compared views of the actual Camino where we would have been each day. With the help of technology, we could zoom in on our shared online map and examine churches, cafes and the vast variety of landscape on the Camino.”

What’s one thing that’s been good in 2020? Feel free to email or tweet me, and your responses might be shared here this week.

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