Stories by Blair Paddock

New Omicron Subvariant Expected to Soon Account For Most COVID-19 Cases in Chicago

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Top Chicago public health officials say that the BA.2 omicron subvariant will be making up most of Chicago cases by the end of the month.

Organizations Raise $35M for Chicago COVID-19 Relief

(WTTW News)

The Chicago Community Trust and the United Way of Metro Chicago have partnered with community leaders to invest $35-million in neighborhood businesses and pandemic resources as part of a COVID-19 relief and recovery effort.  

After Census Undercounted Some Groups, Community Advocates Say More Outreach Was Needed

(WTTW News)

The 2020 Census undercounted Latino, Black and Indigenous people. That’s according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau itself.

Doctors Argue Cash Transfer Programs Could Fight Violence

(WTTW News)

Guaranteed income or cash transfer programs have often been framed as resources to help pay for unexpected medical bills or rent. But now, a group of doctors is pitching the program as not only an anti-poverty strategy but an anti-violence strategy.

CTU Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against District Over Dropping Mask Mandate

(WTTW News)

Chicago Public Schools students will have the option of whether to wear masks, starting next week. The district’s mandate was originally maintained under a contract agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union — despite Illinois dropping masks for schools statewide last week. But Monday, the district announced it’s dropping that mandate.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle Details How Cook County Will Spend American Rescue Plan Funds

Toni Preckwinkle joins “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom, March 2 2022. (WTTW News)

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle details how an influx of federal funds will be allocated.

New CDC Guidance Puts Cook County at Lowest Level of COVID-19 Risk

(WTTW News)

Cook County is now at the lowest level of COVID-19 risk, under new guidance set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chicago’s Top Doc on End to Most Mask, Vaccine Mandates Monday

(WTTW News)

The city will end its indoor mask mandate Monday. Plus, restaurants, fitness centers and bars will no longer require customers to show proof of vaccination for entry. We spoke with Chicago’s top doctor about recent COVID-19 metrics.

Chicago’s Growing Asian American Population Looks Toward More Representation

(WTTW News)

Chris Javier, a deacon at Chinese Christian Union Church, has been working on developing safety plans for residents in the community. Going door to door, he’s been educating residents on how to keep themselves protected against the rise in hate crimes, scams and more.

Advocates’ Next Plans in Fight Against Southside Recycling Facility Permit

This file photo shows the former site of General Iron in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago. (WTTW News)

Early this week, a city assessment said the proposed Southside Recycling plant would not have an adverse effect on resident’s health. But advocates, who’ve been protesting the plant, disagree.

UIC Athletes Barred from Playing in Championships


The decision comes from their conference, the Horizon League, after UIC announced it’ll be leaving the league and joining the Missouri Valley Conference next year. 

Higher Education Seeing Decreased Enrollment Nationally

(WTTW News)

National data shows college enrollment fell another 2.7% in the fall of 2021. It’s a bit larger than the previous fall, when institutions saw a 2.5% drop, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Kate Sullivan Takes Guests to Favorite Restaurants on New Season of ‘To Dine For’

Sullivan dines with famed architect Jeanne Gang in her favorite Chicago restaurant, Brindille, a French restaurant in River North. (Courtesy “To Dine For with Kate Sullivan” )

This season of “To Dine For with Kate Sullivan” takes viewers on a journey with successful, and sometimes prominent guests sharing stories over their favorite foods.

How the Lack of Items Is Affecting Incarcerated People in Illinois

(WTTW News)

Incarcerated people in Illinois prisons are having difficulty getting access to basic necessities, like hygiene items or detergent. The Illinois Department of Corrections says this is due to a supply chain issue, but advocates point to disputes between IDOC and vendors.

CDC Updates Guidance on Face Masks

People wearing masks line up for a food drive in Brighton Park on Chicago’s Southwest Side on April 23, 2020. (WTTW News)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance on face masks for preventing the spread of COVID-19. An infectious disease doctor explains what you need to know. 

Third Season of ‘Wild Travels’ Debuts Sunday on WTTW

The show “Wild Travels” is back with a new season premiering this week, and viewers can expect a showcase of eccentric places across the U.S. from pierogi fests to a unicycle football team. (WTTW News)

The show “Wild Travels” is back with a new season premiering this week, and viewers can expect a showcase of eccentric places across the U.S. from pierogi fests to a unicycle football team. We’re joined by the host and the executive producer. 

How The Pandemic Has Affected Health Care Access for People With Disabilities


While people with disabilities are at high risk for COVID-19, a report from the National Council on Disability finds they haven’t been prioritized for vaccines in some states. 

Illinois’ Top Doc on Omicron Spike, In-Person Learning Debate

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Dr. Ngozi Ezike breaks down the latest Illinois COVID-19 numbers and says the debate over the safety of in-person learning is nuanced. 

How Far Right Extremism Has Shifted Since Last Year

 A study from the Chicago Project on Security and Threats shows 21 million Americans — some 8% of adults in the country — support the idea that the 2020 election was stolen and the Biden presidency is illegitimate.  (WTTW News)

The ideas that contributed to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol one year ago are still alive and well, according to experts and recent polling. A year after the violent riot, some reports show that many of these ideas have become more mainstream and the far right has gained supporters.

How the Omicron Variant is Affecting Young People

(WTTW News)

COVID-19 hospitalizations for children have reached a record high in Chicago. The city is currently seeing a daily average of about seven hospitalizations. Despite these numbers, some data suggest the omicron variant is causing a milder illness in kids.

City’s Top Doc Says Schools Remain Safe Despite COVID Surge

(WTTW News)

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said it’s rare for children to contract COVID-19 and hospitalizations are similar to that of the flu. “We don’t upend school, we don’t stop for influenza,” she said.

Local Doctor on Omicron Variant, Booster Eligibility and More

(WTTW News)

Dr. David Slade, associate medical director of infection prevention control at Loyola Medicine, discusses the latest research on the COVID-19 omicron variant, FDA’s authorization of boosters for teens and more.

Illinois Reports 30,386 New COVID Cases Thursday

the combination of the surge and the holidays have left people scrambling to find COVID tests. (WTTW News)

More than 5,600 people are hospitalized with COVID. And COVID patients are occupying 34% of the state’s ICU beds.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted CTA Ridership

The Urban Institute found that while downtown ridership decreased, neighborhoods with more Black and Latino residents saw more sustained ridership. (WTTW News)

In Chicago, neighborhoods with higher shares of residents of color retained far more ridership than predominantly white communities—and that trend was similar in other cities. 

Cook County Chief Judge Will Now Impose Vaccine Mandate for Employees

Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Tuesday that his office — which covers the courts and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center — will impose COVID vaccine mandates.  (WTTW News)

Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Tuesday that his office — which covers the courts and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center — will impose COVID vaccine mandates. This after the Chief Judge was criticized for previously not mandating the vaccine for all employees.

How to Safely Celebrate Holidays Amid the Latest COVID-19 Surge

(Image by vivienviv0 from Pixabay)

Holiday travel and gathering has begun. The Food and Drug Administration authorizes emergency use of Pfizer’s pill to treat COVID-19. A local physician weighs in on that and more.