The Spin: Duckworth’s ‘disappointment’ over not being Biden’s VP | Biden, Lightfoot plead with public as COVID-19 cases rise | School board elections and the pandemic

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Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·10 min read
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President Joe Biden called on governors and mayors to either reinstitute or maintain COVID-19 mask orders, The New York Times reports, after the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the recent nationwide uptick in cases left her with a feeling “of impending doom.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s “doom” comment echoes the warnings that have been coming from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker amid a local rise in cases. Today, Lightfoot stressed again that “we’re not out of the woods. We’ve got a long way to go and if we want to have a better summer this year than we had last year, we’ve all got to do the work now.”

She said intervention efforts right now are “targeted and strategic,” adding that “(t)he last thing I want to do is have to close back down. We’ve seen that happen across the country. It is disastrous for businesses, for employers or employees, and that’s the last thing you want to do.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth says it was “(a) disappointment” when then-presidential candidate Joe Biden didn’t choose her to be his running mate, USA Today’s Susan Page writes in a story about Duckworth’s new memoir being released this week. Duckworth’s also not ruling out her own bid for president.

Activists are trying to get Nick Fuentes, a far-right video streamer from the western suburbs, kicked off the internet, my Tribune colleague John Keilman writes. Still, the 22-year-old who was dubbed a white supremacist by the FBI has a verified Twitter account with 125,000 followers and his videos circulate on YouTube, a platform from which he was booted a year ago.

Deplatforming has become a hot-button issue among politicians after “Facebook, Twitter and other services suspended (former President Donald) Trump in the wake of the Capitol siege, saying he condoned or glorified violence,” Keilman writes.

Republican legislators are pushing to limit social media companies’ ability to kick people off platforms; Trump himself has said he believes deplatforming is about silencing conservative views. Democrats are pushing for a federal agency that addresses hate speech.

And the trial got underway today in Minneapolis for Derek Chauvin, 45, who is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in last year’s death of George Floyd.

Nodding to the protests that followed Floyd’s death and the reckoning on race and policing here and across the country, Lightfoot took to Twitter and wrote in part: “Over the course of the trial, there will be arguments and evidence from both sides that will likely stir great emotion, both here and across the country.

“I urge all Chicagoans to express themselves peacefully.”

Welcome to The Spin.

Duckworth makes the media rounds, says it was a ‘disappointment’ Biden didn’t pick her to be VP, doesn’t rule out a White House run

USA Today’s Susan Page writes about the potential controversy that could have arisen if Biden had picked Duckworth: She was born in Thailand.

Her mother is Thai Chinese and her father is American, and Page notes, “(m)ost legal scholars say that as the child of an American parent, Duckworth would have met the constitutional requirement to be a ‘natural born citizen.’”

“She knew opponents would have seized on questions over her birthplace, creating a distraction for the Biden campaign,” Page writes. But Illinois’ junior senator isn’t ruling out a bid for president in the future and would address those questions, should they arise. Read the story here.

Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, is making the media rounds in advance of tomorrow’s release of her memoir, “Every Day Is a Gift,” and excerpts have been released to Chicago magazine and CBS’ “Sunday Morning.”

The retired Illinois Army National Guard lieutenant colonel retells in vivid and harrowing detail the 2004 rocket-propelled grenade attack on the helicopter she was co-piloting in Iraq, when she lost her legs, in an excerpt published in the forthcoming issue of Chicago magazine.

The Tribune’s Rick Pearson notes that in an excerpt of the book posted on “Sunday Morning’s” website, Duckworth writes about how childhood travails — fleeing communists in Cambodia, helping her father deliver relief aid in Bangkok and later living in poverty in Hawaii — “marked the beginning of my deep feeling of patriotism for this country.” Read the rest of Pearson’s story here.

Sen. Dick Durbin spoke with leaders at the U.S. Postal Service’s Great Lakes and Central regions to discuss ongoing mail delays that have hit Chicago particularly hard, according to his office.

Last month, the Postal Service put out a call to mail carriers in five surrounding states asking for letter carriers to come to Illinois to help deliver a huge backlog of undelivered mail. Additionally, mail carriers in the five collar counties around Chicago were asked to help Chicago deliver mail on Sundays.

It comes a week after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced plans to slow mail delivery standards and cut hours at some post offices nationwide as part of a 10-year strategy to stabilize the struggling agency.

Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, has called for DeJoy, a GOP fundraiser who was hired last summer, to step down over massive delivery delays.

“I understand that there are many challenges facing the Postal Service recently, from pandemic safety measures to staffing shortages,” Durbin said in a statement. “These hardships are in addition to the actions taken by national postal leadership that undermine the ability of the post office to fulfill its mission. But we must demand more from our Postal Service leadership.”

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From the White House to City Hall, warnings about an uptick in COVID-19 cases as vaccination eligibility expands

Nationally, COVID-19 cases are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with hospitalizations and deaths on the rise, too, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who heads the CDC, said at a virtual COVID-19 media briefing today.

“She warned that without immediate action the U.S. could follow European countries into another spike in cases and suffer needless deaths,” The Associated Press reports. Read the story here.

From The New York Times: “President Biden on Monday called on governors and mayors to maintain or reinstate mask-wearing orders, saying that because of ‘reckless behavior,’ the coronavirus was again spreading fast, threatening the progress the nation has made so far against the pandemic.” Full story here.

Almost 70% of Illinois residents 65 and over have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but an increase in COVID-19 cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations will keep the state from entering the “bridge” phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, the Tribune’s Jenny Whidden and Dan Petrella report.

Here in Chicago, Lightfoot again today said Chicago is seeing a “troubling uptick,” and to take masking and social distancing rules seriously. Gov. Pritzker has described this moment in time as a race to get residents inoculated as virus variants — many of them highly transmissible — emerge.

Illinois statistics: “The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests is 3.3% as of Sunday, the highest level since the same rate was recorded the week ending Feb. 9,” Whidden and Petrella report.

Chicago statistics: The seven-day positivity rate is now at 4%, up from a week ago when it was 3.1%, according to the city’s COVID-19 database. The mayor says the biggest boost in cases is being seen among 18- to 39-year-olds.

As expected, Chicago residents who have medical conditions or are essential workers but hadn’t yet qualified for the coronavirus vaccine are eligible for the shot starting today, my Tribune colleagues report.

Expanding eligibility to phase 1c means much of the city’s population will be allowed a vaccine, but the process of vaccinating the group is expected to take at least two months because of limited supply, Chicago health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said earlier this month.

City to team with Chicago Federation of Labor to vaccinate up to 1,200 eligible union workers per week, the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt reports.

Lollapalooza co-founder wants fest to be held in Chicago this year “in one capacity or another.” Read the Tribune story here.

Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines prove highly effective in real-world use, CDC says — Read The Associated Press story here.

CDC extends ban on tenant evictions during the pandemic through end of June, the AP reports.

White House announces mass vaccination site opening in Gary, the Post-Tribune reports.

Longtime political operative for Ald. Edward Burke, former state Sen. Martin Sandoval charged with deceiving FBI

“A longtime precinct captain for indicted Chicago Ald. Edward Burke and aide to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval was charged Monday with misleading the FBI in its sprawling federal political corruption investigation,” the Tribune’s Jason Meisner writes.

Rudy Acosta Jr., 70, “served for decades as a 14th Ward precinct captain under Burke, who was charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment in 2019 with using his powerful position as chairman of City Council Finance Committee to strong-arm businessmen to hire his private law firm to appeal their property taxes,” Meisner notes.

He “was also a key campaign aide for Sandoval, a Southwest Side legislator who resigned after his Springfield offices were raided in 2019, and last year he pleaded guilty to bribery charges alleging he agreed to act as a “protector” for a red-light camera company in Springfield in exchange for cash payments. Sandoval, who was cooperating in the ongoing probe, died last December of COVID-19-related causes,” Meisner writes. Read the story here.

April 6 election: Reopening schools became a rallying cry for parents. Now it’s a campaign issue in suburban school board races.

“COVID-19 has left its imprint on school board contests throughout the suburbs, with parents’ frustration over school closings and remote learning driving more attention, and new candidates, to many races — possibly with consequences that last well beyond the pandemic,” Karen Ann Cullotta and Rafael Guerra write in the Tribune.

“Pre-pandemic, suburban school board contests were often no-drama affairs, in some cases, failing to attract enough candidates to fill open seats,” Cullotta and Guerra note. “But this election arrives in the wake of a tumultuous 2020 campaign season that was punctuated by parents protesting for reopened schools, marathon school board meetings and even lawsuits, including one filed this month against school board members in Naperville- and Aurora-based Indian Prairie School District 204 by a group of parents who allege a coordinated ‘cover-up of COVID-19 planning.’”

Activists are trying to get Nick Fuentes, a far-right video streamer from the western suburbs, kicked off the internet. It might be impossible.

The Tribune’s John Keilman writes: “For someone who has been deplatformed as thoroughly as anyone this side of Donald Trump, Nick Fuentes is still easy to find online.

“(N)early every major social media platform has banished him for hate speech violations,” Keilman notes.

Still, he’s got a Twitter account with 125,000 followers, has accounts on the social networks Telegram and Gab, which take a relaxed approach to moderation and have been accused of harboring extremists.

While the 22-year-old brags about his digital prowess and seems unconcerned about getting the boot from major social media platforms, he also talked on a recent livestream about freedom of speech and added, “If we don’t have access to the internet and social media, it’s over.” Read the full story here.

Thanks for reading The Spin, the Tribune’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons. Have a tip? Email host Lisa Donovan at ldonovan@chicagotribune.com.

Twitter @byldonovan