Stories by Heather Cherone

A Year After Smokestack Implosion Coated Little Village in Dust, Environmental Justice Fight Grinds On

A still image from a video taken of the demolition of the Crawford Coal Plant smokestack, April 11, 2020. (Alejandro Reyes / YouTube)

One year ago, crews imploded the smokestack at the defunct Crawford coal plant, sending a plume of dust over Little Village but illuminating the impact that toxic air pollution caused by industrial operations has had on South and West side neighborhoods for decades.

Ethics Board Reduces Campaign Finance Fine Levied Against Ald. Austin From $145K to $5K

A file photo shows 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin. (WTTW News)

The board reduced the fine it levied against Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward) by more than 96% after considering after considering the equities of the situation," officials said.

Aldermen OK Revised Ban on Sale of Dogs, Cats, Rabbits at Pet Stores to Stop Breeders

(Aylika / Pixabay)

Determined to close a loophole in a seven-year-old city law, aldermen advanced a measure Monday that would ban pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits at a profit.

All Illinois Residents Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine

(WTTW News via CNN)

The expansion of vaccine eligibility to any Illinois adult regardless of their age, health or employment does not include the city of Chicago. However, Chicagoans can travel outside of the city to be vaccinated, officials said, though supplies are still limited.

Cases of More Transmissible UK COVID-19 Variant Double in Illinois: Officials

(WTTW News)

The spread of the U.K. variant is helping to fuel a surge in COVID-19 cases in Chicago and across Illinois, according to Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Chicago Officials Vow to Boost Slow Effort to Vaccinate Homebound Chicagoans

(Courtesy of Chicago Fire Media)

In early March, Chicago officials announced a COVID-19 vaccine program for homebound residents and their caregivers. But many people who signed up for the program had already been vaccinated by the time officials contacted them to schedule an appointment.

Pritzker Extends Ban on Coronavirus-Related Evictions Through June 1

(WTTW News)

Illinois’ ban on evictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been extended amid a steady increase in confirmed cases and hospitalizations that has complicated efforts to lift restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

10 Chicago Library Branches to Begin Sunday Hours, Lightfoot Announces

A rendering of the new Altgeld Gardens branch of the Chicago Public Library. (Credit: Koo LLC)

The new $7.5 million Chicago Public Library branch in Altgeld Gardens will open from 1-5 p.m. on Sundays starting April 18 along with branches in Mount Greenwood, South Shore, Back of the Yards, Chinatown, Merlo, Edgewater, Independence, Richard M. Daley and Austin, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced.

All Chicagoans to Be Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine April 19: Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces that all Chicagoans will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as of April 19 at a news conference on April 6, 2021. (WTTW News)

Chicago will make all residents ages 16 and older eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on April 19, meeting a deadline announced Tuesday by President Joe Biden, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced hours later. The city needs more vaccine to meet the sky-high demand for the life-saving shots, Lightfoot said. 

Chicago Shuffles Travel Order as COVID-19 Cases Increase in Midwest

(WTTW News)

Chicago officials shuffled the city’s travel order Tuesday to require visitors from four midwestern states — Iowa, Ohio, Nebraska and North Dakota  — and Washington, D.C., to quarantine for 10 days or record a negative test for COVID-19.

Pritzker Signs Bill Boosting Chicago Firefighters’ Pensions, Ignoring Lightfoot’s Opposition

(WTTW News)

Some retired firefighters could see their pensions grow after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a measure to boost the annual cost-of-living increase added to their checks. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the measure would create an “unfunded mandate” that would force Chicago officials to raise taxes or cut services.

80 Illinois Counties Expand Vaccine Eligibility to All Residents

(WTTW News)

Illinois residents ages 16 and older who live in 80 of the state’s 102 counties are now eligible for the vaccine, state health officials announced Monday. However, health departments in Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, Will and Cook counties as well as Chicago have yet to expand eligibility.

Amid ‘Very Sharp’ Increase of COVID-19 Cases, Cook County Officials Weighing New Restrictions

(WTTW News)

Cook County leaders may have no choice but to impose new restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 amid a “very sharp” increase in infections, officials said Saturday. “We are in the beginnings of a new surge,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin of the Cook County Department of Public Health.

Pritzker Signs Bill Restoring Bargaining Rights for Chicago Teachers

(WTTW News)

Defying Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill Friday restoring the ability of the Chicago Teachers Union to bargain with the city over a wide range of issues, including class size, layoffs and the duration of the school year. 

Cases of More Transmissible UK COVID-19 Variant Up 47% in Illinois: Officials

(WTTW News)

In all, 276 cases involving the United Kingdom variant have been found in samples of COVID-19 positive tests from Illinois since Jan. 15, officials said. 

No End in Sight to Latest COVID-19 Spike: Chicago’s Top Doc

A sign at the United Center mass vaccination site on March 29, 2021. (WTTW News)

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are continuing to surge among young Chicagoans on the city’s North Side and there is no sign that will change anytime soon, Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday.

All Essential Workers in Cook County Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine: Officials

The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Chicago were administered at the Loretto Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (WTTW News)

New appointments at Cook County’s mass vaccination sites for those now eligible will open at 6 p.m. Wednesday online. 

Chicago Still Using ‘Deeply Flawed’ Gang Databases: Watchdog

(WTTW News)

Police officials continue to use “deeply flawed” records that list approximately 135,000 Chicagoans as members of gangs more than two years after Inspector General Joseph Ferguson found the databases were riddled with errors, according to a follow-up audit released Wednesday.

As Officials Warn of Another Surge in COVID-19 Cases, Clear Pattern Emerges

(Photo by Lightscape / Unsplash)

Three times in the past year, officials have trumpeted the news that COVID-19 case rates had dropped, prompting them to allow businesses to reopen or expand capacity. And three times, officials have returned to the microphones approximately one month later to warn that COVID-19 was spreading fast.

City to Open Mass Vaccination Sites Near Wrigley Field, Chicago State University

(WTTW News)

Opening Monday, the two sites will have the capacity to administer 5,000 vaccine doses per day, officials said. Only Chicago residents will be eligible for appointments.

City to Open Vaccination Site for Union Workers as Eligibility Expands

(WTTW News)

City officials announced Monday they will open a vaccination site for union workers—the first of its type in the nation, they say—designed to administer 1,200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine per day.

Chicago Launches Next Phase of COVID-19 Vaccine Effort

(WTTW News)

Approximately 84% of all Chicagoans are now eligible for the vaccine, as Chicago enters the third phase of the vaccination effort that began in mid-December. 

Illinois Expands Vaccine Eligibility Where Demand is Dropping as Cases Surge

(WTTW News)

The final decision on vaccine eligibility remains with local health departments, officials said. That means the change will not expand eligibility in areas of the state, like Chicago and Cook County, where demand for the COVID-19 vaccine continues to far outpace supply.

4th More Transmissible COVID-19 Variant Discovered in Illinois: Officials

(WTTW News)

Twenty-nine cases of a COVID-19 variant first discovered in Southern California and believed to be more transmissible have been discovered in Illinois, state health officials announced Thursday.

City Eases Restrictions on Outdoor Businesses Amid Increase in COVID-19 Cases, Illnesses

(Free-Photos / Pixabay)

Chicago will not allow businesses to increase their capacity indoors amid an “alarming” increase in COVID-19 cases and illnesses, but they will be allowed to serve more customers outside, officials announced Thursday. “We are seeing a very disturbing trend,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters.

Spend Federal Relief Funds on Direct Aid to Chicagoans, Progressive Groups Tell City Officials

The now-closed Paladar Restaurant in Logan Square. (Facebook photo)

Progressive groups launched a campaign Thursday to ratchet up the pressure on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council to spend the city’s $1.9 billion share of the latest federal COVID-19 relief package on direct aid to Chicagoans struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.