Happy Thursday, Illinois. It’s groundhog day all over again as we work from home.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who became a meme this spring urging residents to stay home during the height of the pandemic, is back with a cheeky video taking a subtle jab at the Trump administration, celebrating “science is back, baby,” and reminding viewers to wear a mask. It co-stars Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, who declares: “I do love science.”
Illinois reported 145 deaths due to coronavirus Wednesday, the most in one day since May. Gov. J.B. Pritzker implored residents to stay home for the next three weeks. We’ve been here before, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
“I want to remind everybody how deadly this virus is. It hasn’t abated, it hasn’t changed, it’s out there,” Pritzker told reporters Wednesday.
The pandemic’s unrelenting grip on the country is in clear view in this Covid Exit Strategy map. Illinois is among states with the highest number of new coronavirus cases in the past seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
All that led Pritzker and public health officials to urge residents to work from home if possible and avoid “even small gatherings.” The request mirrors the executive order of the spring that kept residents at home, though this time it’s just a recommendation.
The state’s health care system is already feeling the impact. Hospitals are starting to limit elective surgeries and add more beds as they anticipate a record number of Covid-19 patients.
“NorthShore University HealthSystem, has converted its Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview back into a COVID-19 hospital, meaning it is no longer taking patients in need of overnight care if they don’t have COVID-19. Non-Covid-19 patients who need to be hospitalized are being sent to other facilities in the system,” reports the Tribune’s Lisa Schencker.
This is all happening in the wake of a national election Trump has been projected to lose, though he refuses to acknowledge so. Bitter irony: at least five people who attended an Election Night party at the White House have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to CNBC.
Trump’s refusal to concede is not just a political drama. It has prevented the General Services Administration from formally recognizing Biden as the president-elect, forcing his transition team to plan for a crisis response without access to essential information about the nation’s supply chains and testing supplies, a trio of POLITICO health care reporters. The wait also prevents Biden’s team from talking to Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious-disease expert.
Some good news: Pharmacies ready to distribute Covid-19 vaccines once approved, says CVS CEO, by Forbes senior contributor for health care Bruce Japsen
— What we know — and don’t — about Pfizer’s promising vaccine results, by POLITICO’s Lauren Morello
— Pandemic invades nursing homes again, by POLITICO’s Rachel Roubein
— State Rep. Mike Halpin recovering from Covid-19; other Rock Island County offices impacted, by Dispatch Argus’ Sarah Hayden
— What ‘probable’ cases mean to state numbers, by Daily Herald’s Jake Griffin
— Republican state Sen. Sue Rezin and Democratic state Rep. La Shawn Ford plan a hearing today on the state’s response to Covid-19.
— THE LATEST NUMBERS: Along with 145 deaths, Illinois Department of Public Health reported 12,657 new confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus. That’s a total of 10,434 deaths and 523,840 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Nov. 4 through 10 is 12.4 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 14.1 percent.
We talked to Danielle Perry, the state’s new Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer. She replaces Toi Hutchinson, the state senator who helped pass weed legislation but was forced to step down because of a state law prohibiting former lawmakers from holding jobs that were created while they were in office. Hutchinson still advises Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Perry worked at the USDA during the Obama administration before returning to her hometown of Chicago to work on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s transition team. More recently, Perry ran Growing Home, a nonprofit that provides formerly incarcerated residents on Chicago’s South Side with training to prepare them for jobs in agriculture and food service.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s your first order of business as the state is being challenged for how it handled the initial lottery round for dispensary licenses?
My main job is to bring people together in terms of oversight. I look at the cannabis industry in Illinois as a pie. There are so many different agencies that have some little slice of the pie. I want to coordinate the different agencies, so they’re talking to one another. … There are people in the Illinois Department of Public Health who don’t know the people in the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Regarding the licensing process, my job is to focus on the dispensaries that are already licensed. There are others in the administration who are focused on the process to hand out new licenses.
What advice are you following from other states?
We are in constant communication with other states that have legalized cannabis to hear how their cannabis industries are growing and changing. But Illinois is the only state in the country to take an equity-centric approach to legalizing cannabis. Because of that, there isn’t a rulebook from other states for us to follow.
How are you addressing Illinois’ efforts to make sure Black and brown residents are part of the industry?
I’ve seen the benefits of bringing social equity into the community. At Growing Home, we taught people how to grow food and harvest it and they would take it to the North Side and sell it. The money they made went back in the program. It was amazing. But Englewood [where the nonprofit is located] is one of the most food-insecure parts of town, so during my tenure we decided to flip the model on its head. And instead of selling on the North Side, we started selling more in the community on the South Side. We were making an impact on the community we lived in and it helped start changing the narrative about how to have a healthy community.
Illinois has the most expensive weed in the country. Will the price ever go down?
Trends in other states show [the price] goes down, but I don’t know if that will happen here. It’s too early to tell. Every decision we make changes something else. So I think it’s just too early to say if that will happen.
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At City Hall for a 12:45 p.m. update on the city’s response to Covid-19.
Speaking at 1 p.m. at the virtual Chicago Quantum Summit about the impact of quantum science on Chicago and Illinois. Watch live on the Quantum Summit site. … Pritzker will be at the Thompson Center at 2:30 p.m. for the daily Covid briefing. Watch live
No official public events.
DUCKWORTH MEMOIR: Sen. Tammy Duckworth is publishing a memoir scheduled for release March 30. “Today, on the 16th anniversary of the day my helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I am grateful to be able to tell my personal American story … My life has been filled with unexpected challenges and painful experiences, but also with the rewards that come with service and perseverance,” Duckworth said in a statement to Playbook.
On this day in 2004, Duckworth nearly died after a rocket-propelled grenade hit the cockpit of her Black Hawk helicopter, hurling her to the ground. She credits her military “buddies” with keeping her alive after her body was left “quite literally in pieces.”
Her memoir will also tell the little-known story of her life growing up in Thailand to an American father, also a U.S. military veteran, and Thai Chinese mother, and the challenges they faced when they returned to the United States.
Publisher Sean Desmond of Twelve says: “Twelve is honored to partner with Sen. Duckworth, whose story is emblematic of what is great about America — resilience, hope and opportunity — and we’re excited to share her journey with readers.” See the book jacket
— Underwood extends slim lead over Oberweis: “Freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood extended her slim lead over Republican challenger Jim Oberweis as ballots continue to be counted in the west and northwest suburban and exurban 14th Congressional District. As of Wednesday night, Underwood’s advantage over Oberweis grew from 3,524 votes to 4,288 votes after an additional 2,910 ballots were reported by Will County authorities. On a percentage basis, Underwood leads Oberweis 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent,” by Tribune’s Rick Pearson.
— In last week’s presidential election, Chicago tallied its most votes cast since 1984: “More than 1.1 million people voted in the 2020 general election, with thousands more ballots still to be counted, according to preliminary Chicago Board of Elections numbers. That’s the highest vote count in Chicago since the 1984 general election, when Republican President Ronald Reagan defeated Democratic former Vice President Walter Mondale, according to the elections board. More than 1.2 million ballots were cast in Chicago that year, it said,” by Tribune’s Alice Yin.
— Republican state Rep. Tom Morrison is leading Democratic challenger Maggie Trevor in the 54th District of Palatine. Morrison has 24,777 votes (54.4 percent) to Trevor’s 20,735 votes (45.6 percent), according to AP. Ballots are still being counted, according to Journal-Topic’s Richard Mayer.
— Neck and neck for Board of Review: Democrat Tammy Wendt, buoyed by mail in ballots, is now in a virtual tie with Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Dan Patlak. With 715, 047 votes, Patlak is ahead by only 301 votes, or 0.04%, with tens of thousands more mail in ballots to be counted. Patlak outspent Wendt 20 to 1.
— Pritzker warns of ‘serious,’ ‘painful cuts’ to rightsize state’s finances: “The governor has called for a meeting of House and Senate leadership because there’s “so much work that needs to be done” on the budget and other areas, like criminal justice reform,” by Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton.
— Raoul, state lawmakers seek tougher decertification standards for law enforcement: “At a joint hearing of the state Senate Criminal Justice Committee and Special Committee on Public Safety Tuesday, Attorney General Kwame Raoul testified to lawmakers that the current metric for decertifying members of law enforcement leaves open too much room for misconduct, especially compared to the licensing and certification systems for other states. Under current Illinois law, an officer must be convicted of a felony, a ‘decertifiable misdemeanor’ such as criminal sex abuse, or commit perjury in a murder trial to be decertified,” by Capitol News’ Raymon Troncoso.
— Almost a third of Illinois teachers surveyed considered leaving profession amid Covid stress: “The departures would arrive at a critical time coinciding with teacher shortages at many school districts across the state and a spike in teacher retirements,” by Tribune’s Karen Ann Cullotta.
— Food insecurity still high amid pandemic in city, suburbs and rural areas alike: “The demographics of people facing hunger have also changed. The Northern Illinois Food Bank says it’s seen a 50 percent increase in need, and has been providing more than 300,000 meals a day through its network of 900 sites in suburban and rural areas. Food bank CEO Julie Yurko says many people don’t think food insecurity is a problem in the suburbs, and that people often feel ashamed to ask for help,” by WTTW’s Nick Blumberg and Brandis Friedman. WITH VIDEO
— Addressing systemic racism: The Broad Cast podcast just launched what will be the first episode in a six-month series of conversations around systemic racism and building an anti-racist society. Sen. Kimberly Lightford kicks it off talking about the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus building its Black Agenda to help address systemic racism and oppression. Listen here
— Former Gov. Jim Edgar and John Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, have created a new annual award: the Paul Simon-Jim Edgar Prairie State Statesmanship Award will honor “exceptional leadership in Illinois by state and local government officials,” according to the institute. Edgar will discuss the award Monday morning on a Zoom. Details here
Without graduated income tax, state universities brace for ‘almost inevitable’ budget cuts ‘because there’s just nothing left’: “Reducing discretionary funding for the state’s 12 public universities and community colleges could make it harder for students to afford college if schools raise tuition to offset the losses, some experts said. And there could be less money to support a grant program for low-income college students who qualify for state assistance in a time when more applicants are expected to seek aid,” by Tribune’s Elyssa Cherne
— Lightfoot needs to compromise to get pandemic budget passed, powerful ally says: “One day after gaveling two weeks of virtual budget hearings to a close by telling her colleagues, ‘Let’s go make sausage,’ Budget Committee Chairman Pat Dowell (3rd) essentially said: ‘Let the negotiations begin,’” by Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.
— INVESTIGATION: How government and private industry let the main street of a Black neighborhood crumble: “A half-century after Chicago’s uprisings in 1968, a once-thriving retail strip in East Garfield Park still suffers from broken promises, bad policy and neglect,” by ProPublica’s Tony Briscoe, Haru Coryne and Mick Dumke.
— Sun-Times/ABC 7 Special Report: Plastic waste problem ‘amplified’ by the pandemic: “A push to reduce single-use plastic in takeout food packaging in Chicago is on hold. To get an idea of the impact of increased takeout dining, we invited an expert to a picnic,” by Sun-Times’ Stephanie Zimmermann.
— Archdiocese of Chicago to consolidate 6 parishes into 2 new ones as part of massive restructuring initiative: “The two groupings, composed of parishes in the Markham-Harvey area and the Back of the Yards neighborhood, will unite with new names no later than July 1, according to an archdiocese news release. The Markham-Harvey grouping will consist of the Ascension-St. Susanna Catholic Church in Harvey, the St. Gerard Majella Parish in Markham and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Harvey. The other grouping will consist of parishes currently located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood: the Holy Cross-Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph and St. Michael the Archangel parishes,” by Tribune’s Kelli Smith.
— Pritzker, Duckworth celebrate completion of long delayed veterans home on Northwest Side: “The first home for Illinois veterans in Chicago will welcome its first residents in February 2021 — more than four years after it was scheduled to open, officials announced Wednesday,” by WTTW’s Heather Cherone.
— Fulton Market Association decries clampdown on industry, pushes for relief: “On Wednesday, the association criticized the city for what it alleges is unfair targeting of restaurants with COVID-19 restrictions, and shared a list of demands the association believes will help restaurants survive the winter,” by Tribune’s Grace Wong.
— Some cops still won’t wear masks despite 1,200 Covid infectionsCops Still Won’t Wear Masks Despite 1,200 COVID Infections: “It’s unclear if any officers have been punished for failing to adhere to the department’s mask mandate. City leaders are launching a mask campaign, but civilians are skeptical it will make a difference,” by Block Club’s Bob Chiarito.
Group sues to block city from giving away NW Side firehouse: “The Copernicus Foundation said officials unfairly spurned its $300,000 offer for the Jefferson Park property,” by Sun-Times’ David Roeder.
— Unions back Madigan: Unions, led by the Chicago Federation of Labor, issued a statement Wednesday backing House Speaker Michael Madigan, saying he is the best chance they have to “bolster worker power and protections” and is “a staunch defender of working people.” The announcement was less a message to the broader world than to state lawmakers who rely on union monies to get re-elected. It comes on the heels of high-profile Democrats, including Sen. Dick Durbin, calling for him to step down as head of the Democratic Party. At least seven state reps have said they would not vote for Madigan as House speaker again in January.
— Congresswoman Cheri Bustos has been nominated to serve as co-chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. The panel recommends committee assignments to the Democratic Caucus and helps shape the House policy agenda. Bustos would come to the position after announcing she wouldn’t run again as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has taken heat since Election Day over stinging House losses across the country.
— Ronna McDaniel expected to stay on as RNC chair: “Trump endorsed his hand-picked party chair for another term on Twitter Wednesday evening,” by POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt.
— Biden presidency: Durbin, Duckworth back retaining U.S. Attorney John Lausch: “Presidents can fire U.S. attorneys and Democratic Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth want Lausch retained, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. President-elect Biden, kicking off his transition on Monday, has not signaled his plans for the 93 U.S. attorneys who serve at the discretion of the president,” by Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet and Jon Seidel.
— New York Times lists Tammy Duckworth as a contender for Secretary of Defense on Joe Biden’s Cabinet. Times list here
— Assessing a Transportation Secretary Rahm: “Nobody in Chicago seems to like the idea. But as DOT boss, Emanuel would occupy a post so far removed from ideological policymaking that Obama filled it with a Republican,” by Edward McClelland in Chicago mag.
— Another Chicagoan on Biden’s transition team: Access Living President and CEO Karen Tamley has been tapped for the Department of Housing and Urban Development team. She has a long history in fair housing and fighting for accessible housing for the disability community. Here’s the full list
— Biden announces Ron Klain will be White House chief of staff, by POLITICO’s Megan Cassella and Alex Thompson
— Trump aides privately plot a flurry of moves in their final 10 weeks, by POLITICO’s Nancy Cook and Gabby Orr
— Left and center agree on something: Democratic leaders don’t have a clue, by POLITICO’s John F. Harris
— Shareese Pryor has joined BPI as senior staff counsel and director of Justice Reform. Before joining BPI, Pryor served as chief of the Civil Rights Bureau at the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, where she led the team that investigates and litigates patterns and practices of discrimination. Pryor played a leading role in negotiating the police reform consent decree with the Chicago Police Department and then went on to help oversee its enforcement.
— Monique Brunson Jones has been named president and CEO of Forefront, an association for nonprofit groups. Brunson, a licensed clinical social worker, currently heads the Evanston Community Foundation.
WEDNESDAY’s GUESS: Congrats to Daniel Egel-Weiss, Harvard Law School student body co-president, for correctly guessing that 1923 was the year Chicago established it would have 50 aldermen.
TODAY’S QUESTION: Illinois has 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. What is the largest number of seats it’s held? Email your answer to [email protected].
Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton, former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, and Ventec Life Systems’ VP of marketing and comms Mark SooHoo