Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union’s leadership reached a tentative agreement Sunday to reopen city schools for families seeking in-person instruction, narrowly avoiding a strike, sources said.

Any deal is contingent on broader union approval of the terms via a vote by the union’s 25,000 members. It was not clear if or when that might happen and a new target date for a return to in-person instruction had not been announced.

Here’s what’s happening this weekend with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

Coronavirus variant first found in Britain now spreading rapidly in US

A more contagious variant of the coronavirus first found in Britain is spreading rapidly in the United States, doubling roughly every 10 days, according to a new study.

Analyzing a half-million coronavirus tests and hundreds of genomes, a team of researchers predicted that in a month this variant could become predominant in the United States, potentially bringing a surge of new cases and increased risk of death. Read more here. — The New York Times

Chicago Public Schools and the teachers union reach a tentative reopening deal, apparently thwarting a strike

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union’s leadership reached a tentative agreement Sunday to reopen city schools for families seeking in-person instruction, narrowly avoiding a strike, sources said.

Any deal is contingent on broader union approval of the terms via a vote by the union’s 25,000 members. It was not clear if or when that might happen and a new target date for a return to in-person instruction had not been announced.

2,060 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 48 additional deaths reported

There were 81,550 tests in the previous 24 hours and the seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test is 3.4%. Officials said 1,342,857 vaccines have been administered statewide. —Chicago Tribune staff

Southland restaurants following state guidelines return to 50% in-person capacity, and some are reaping the rewards: ‘Our game plan worked’

Many restaurants that opted to stay open in late October when the state reinstituted restrictions on indoor dining in the region said they had little choice if they wanted to stay afloat. But some restaurants that closed for indoor dining in line with regulations have seen the decision pay dividends in the long run.

“We didn’t allow any dine-in,” said Jennifer Macari, director of operations for Digs on Canal in Lemont. “We followed all the rules.”

Macari said rather than that devastating her family’s business, the decision brought an outpouring of support from the community. That has meant plenty of carryout orders and requests for dining in the igloos on Digs on Canal’s patio, where there is sometimes even live entertainment.

“We have been sold out until the last couple of weeks,” Macari said. “Because we followed the rules, we were able to see the benefit of the igloos. People are so looking for live entertainment.”

Macari said Digs on Canal actually gained new customers after deciding to follow the state guidelines. Regulars who have supported the business over the past two years have continued to do so, but newcomers have tried out Digs on Canal in recent months.

“We’ve been very fortunate our game plan worked,” Macari said. “I think we’re lucky and grateful.”

Highly contagious UK coronavirus strain detected in Lake County

Someone who traveled internationally during December tested positive for the first known Lake County COVID-19 case with the highly contagious variant first detected in the United Kingdom, according to a weekend news release from the Lake County Health Department.

While the person was abroad, they came in contact with someone who was sick, according to the release. Upon return, the local individual quarantined from others and was tested. Though testing positive for the strain, known as B.1.1.7, the person has not experienced symptoms yet, according to Lake County health officials. It was not immediately clear where the person tested resides or whether the person is a Lake County resident.

With the emergence of the variant of the virus in the county, Mark Pfister, the executive director of the Lake County Health Department, said in the release caution is as important as ever.

“While new cases of COVID-19 have been declining since January, the emergence of this new variant right here in Lake County underscores how important it is that (we) remain vigilant,” Pfister said in the release.

3,062 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 60 additional deaths reported

Officials also reported 90,295 new tests in the last 24 hours. The seven-day statewide rolling positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 3.4% for the period ending Friday.

How Illinois has struggled more than most states rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine

Marj Leopardo is 85. Her husband, Sam, is 88. They both have health issues. And their days are now consumed with one thing: the vaccine hunt.

The Crystal Lake couple are, on paper, just the kind of people the government wants at the front of the vaccine line. But they live in a country that’s struggled with the rollout, and in a state that’s struggled more than others.

So that has meant reaching out daily to doctors’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals, the local health department. It has meant their daughter stalks websites to hunt for an elusive open appointment. And they watch others, in other suburbs and other states, snap up shots.

“It’s really taken over our lives,” Sam said Tuesday.

Added Marj: “After a while, your brain feels like mush.”

The Leopardos find themselves in the center of the widespread struggles of Illinois’ first six weeks of mass COVID-19 vaccination.

The Tribune spoke to more than a dozen health officials, researchers, doctors and families, and analyzed federal, state and local datasets to try to assess a system that’s considered key to ending the pandemic but, so far, has attracted widespread frustration.

Nearing another strike, Lightfoot versus CTU escalates conflict between City Hall and Chicago’s public school teachers

During the 2019 run-up to what would become the Chicago Teachers Union’s longest strike in decades, Mayor Lori Lightfoot took stock of the differences between the labor issues she was facing and those that haunted her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel.

There were many distinctions, Lightfoot said, between the situation when teachers walked out in 2012 and what she was confronting seven years later. But to her, one key point stood out.

“I’m not Rahm,” Lightfoot said with conviction.

Nevertheless, like Emanuel, Lightfoot has endured a teachers strike early in her administration. And, like Emanuel, she’s on the brink of a second — this one brought on by a dispute with the CTU over how to reopen public school classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cook County public health co-lead Dr. Rachel Rubin loses both her parents to COVID-19 in ‘surreal’ two-week span

When Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said her last goodbye to her father in December, it was through a screen.

After not seeing him in-person since he was hospitalized with COVID-19, she logged onto a video chat, but he wasn’t able to say much. He asked how her mother, who had also come down with the virus, was faring. Rubin was unsure whether he understood most of her responses.

Harvey Rubin, 93, died Dec. 23 of COVID-19 complications, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. His wife Aviva Rubin, 91, died less than two weeks later of the same disease. The Rubins lived in Lincolnwood.

Rubin was able to see her mother in person two days before her death, but like her previous meeting with her father, it was quiet. Her mother slept through much of their reunion as Rubin held her hand while talking on the phone with her sister and brother.

“It’s been extremely difficult. It’s also been very surreal,” Rubin said in a phone interview. “We can’t really mourn or be with family for comfort the way one usually can be after a loss like this. And so it’s still in some ways sort of sinking in.”

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