Stories by Kristen Thometz

What You Need to Know About At-Home COVID-19 Tests

(Annie Spratt / Unsplash)

Dozens of different at-home COVID-19 tests are now available from big-box retailers and pharmacies. But before you run out and buy one, a few words of caution from Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease specialist at UChicago Medicine.

Study: Rare COVID-19 Syndrome More Common in Black, Latino and Asian Kids

(WTTW News)

A rare inflammatory condition linked to kids with coronavirus infections is more likely to occur in Black, Latino and Asian children than their white counterparts, according to a new study. “This virus does not affect everyone equally,” said pediatrician Dr. Patrick Seed.

10 Things to Do This Weekend: June 17-20

(Marcelo Ikeda Tchelão / Pixabay)

Sudsy brews, street art, superheroes and Juneteenth celebrations. Here are 10 things to do in and around Chicago.

2021 Chicago Summer Festival Guide

The Taste of Lincoln Avenue returns July 24-25, 2021. (Courtesy of Special Events Management)

Neighborhood street festivals, art shows, outdoor concerts — including Lollapalooza and the Taste of Chicago — are returning this summer as the Chicago area reopens. Here’s your guide to summer fun. 

Can the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Mammograms?

(WTTW News)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the COVID-19 vaccine can cause swelling in the lymph nodes in the underarm where women received the shot, which the agency says is normal. But that swelling can appear in mammograms. Here’s what you need to know. 

Pritzker Issues Guidelines Ahead of Full Reopening

(WTTW News)

People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue to wear face coverings in crowded settings and maintain 6 feet of social distance when inside businesses and venues, even after Illinois moves into phase 5 of its reopening plan, according to new guidance.

Social Media Influencers in Cook County Promote Vaccine: ‘Just Go Do It’

McKinley Nelson, 24, founder of Project sWish, is part of a public education campaign to provide COVID-19 vaccine information and address vaccine hesitancy. (Credit: Cook County Health / YouTube)

Roughly 50 social media influencers are using their platforms to encourage people to get vaccinated by sharing their own experiences with the shots. “I want to do my part to get back to normal,” said McKinley Nelson of Project sWish. 

‘Brain Fog’ Lingers Among COVID-19 Long-Haulers: Study

(HalcyonMarine / Pixabay)

A DePaul University study of nearly 280 long-haulers — people who experience symptoms of COVID-19 months after their initial diagnosis — found that while most of the symptoms improved over time, some lingered or even got worse.

Cook County Health Closing Half its Mass Vaccination Sites Thursday

(WTTW News)

COVID-19 mass vaccination sites in Tinley Park, South Holland and River Grove will close Thursday as demand for the vaccine wanes and officials redeploy resources to focus on community-based vaccination efforts.

Local Doctors Address Reports of Heart Inflammation Linked to COVID-19 Vaccine

(WTTW News)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a small number of reports that adolescents and young adults who received the Pfizer or Moderna shot experienced inflammation of the heart muscle.

State Health Officials to Monitor COVID-19 in Wastewater

Dorothy Wright-Foulkes filters wastewater samples. (Credit: Illinois Department of Public Health)

Health officials are launching a statewide system to monitor COVID-19 and its variants in wastewater that will provide early warnings of a potential outbreak on a county-by-county basis.

As Pandemic Wanes, Event Organizers Plan for Return of Chicago Festivals, Art Shows

Summer is just around the corner and with it comes the return of neighborhood street festivals, art shows and outdoor concerts, including Lollapalooza. We asked some local organizers for their take on the 2021 summer festival season.

Navy Pier Plans to Fully Reopen by Memorial Day Weekend

(WTTW News)

Starting Thursday, Navy Pier’s indoor spaces will be open to the public as it moves into its second phase of reopening. The iconic lakefront attraction aims to fully reopen by the end of the month.

Do COVID-19 Vaccines Impact Menstrual Cycles?

(WTTW News)

COVID-19 vaccines can include some common side effects like muscle pain and headache. But can they affect menstrual cycles? Researchers are gathering data to find out.

COVID-19 Vaccines Coming Soon to a Doctor’s Office Near You: Officials

(WTTW News)

“The days of vaccine scarcity are over,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday. “Today, we’re initiating the expansion of vaccine administration to physician offices across the state of Illinois, allowing them to become COVID-19 vaccine providers for their patients.”

Illinois to Enter Bridge Phase May 14

(WTTW News)

Illinois is ready to move into the next phase of reopening, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday, and the state could be ready for a full reopening as soon as June 11. What to know about the bridge phase of Illinois’ reopening plan.

‘Unacceptable Disparities’ Persist Among Maternal Deaths: Report

(StockSnap / Pixabay)

Black women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts, according to a new report. While that disparity has narrowed, officials say it’s not due to conditions improving for Black women but instead worsening conditions for white women. 

Peloton Treadmills Recalled After Death of Child, 72 Injuries

Exercise equipment company Peloton is recalling its treadmills after reports of injuries and the death of at least one child. (Peloton / Facebook)

A 6-year-old child recently died after being pulled under the rear of the Peloton Tread+ treadmill, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The company has also received dozens of reports of injuries.

Looking for a Mother’s Day Gift? Get Vaccinated, Cook County Officials Say

(WTTW News via CNN)

Flowers, candy and jewelry are all go-to gifts for mom. But this year, Cook County officials say the No. 1 gift can’t be bought in a store. “This year all your mother wants for Mother’s Day is for you to get vaccinated,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. 

Suburban Cook County Officials Hope to Fully Reopen This Summer

Downtown Evanston (WTTW News)

With Chicago officials targeting July 4 as a date to fully reopen, suburban Cook County officials hope to have “a similar, if not identical reopening schedule.”

Cook County Providing Resources, Support for Small Businesses

A small business in Wicker Park highlights its opening hours in 2020. (WTTW News)

Cook County officials are marking Small Business Week, which runs through Saturday, with the launch of a new initiative aimed at supporting small businesses as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Should I Do With My COVID-19 Vaccination Card?

Individuals are issued a COVID-19 vaccination card when they’re vaccinated. (Kristen Thometz / WTTW News)

COVID-19 vaccination cards have become the proverbial golden ticket. But what should you do if you lose it or never get one in the first place? And how do you keep your card safe? Here’s what you need to know. 

Suburban Cook County Eases Restrictions on Restaurants, Events

(WTTW News)

Starting Friday, restaurants in suburban Cook County can serve up to 100 people indoors or no more than 50% capacity, according to officials.

COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for College Students ‘Under Discussion’: Pritzker


A trio of Chicago colleges have already announced they will require students be vaccinated for COVID-19 ahead of the fall semester. On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said such a requirement for all college-bound students is “under discussion.”

City Officials Launch $60M Arts Recovery Plan

A mural in Chicago’s South Loop. (WTTW News)

Arts 77, a new citywide arts recovery and reopening plan named with a nod to Chicago’s 77 community areas, will work to support local artists and organizations, a sector “decimated by the global pandemic,” according to an official.

Gov. Pritzker Announces Pandemic Health Navigator Program

Gov. J.B. Pritzker talks about a program designed to help connect people who contract COVID-19 with resources and educate them about the vaccines on Monday, April 26, 2021. (WTTW News)

More than 60 community-based organizations and 23 federally qualified health centers are involved in a new program to assist residents who become infected with COVID-19 and to educate people about the vaccines.