The Spin: Johnson & Johnson shots paused | Federal officials looking for temporary migrant shelters visit Great Lakes Navy boot camp | Obamas on fatal police shooting

Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·8 min read

The state, Cook County and Chicago public health departments hit the pause button on distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following recommendations from the FDA and CDC amid reports that six people suffered blood clots about two weeks after vaccination.

As my Tribune colleagues note, “Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been a key part of the city’s strategy to increase doses. Just last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot took Vice President Kamala Harris on a tour of the Chicago Federation of Labor’s vaccine site at the International Union of Operating Engineers union hall, where they watched a window washer get his Johnson & Johnson shot.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine March 24 at an Illinois National Guard mass vaccination site at the state fairgrounds in Springfield.

Meantime, federal officials are trying to determine whether Naval Station Great Lakes could serve as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied children crossing into the United States from the southwestern border, the U.S. Department of Defense confirms.

With a surge in migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, shelters for unaccompanied minors are crowding, prompting aides to President Joe Biden to “scout” for temporary locations including Illinois, The New York Times first reported over the weekend.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the juvenile shelters, requested a “site visit” to Great Lakes Navy boot camp on the North Shore to assess whether it could serve as a shelter, the Department of Defense tells The Spin. The visit was last Wednesday.

And former President Barack Obama and first Lady Michelle Obama issued a statement today lamenting “yet another shooting of a Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of police” in a Minneapolis suburb, just miles from the courthouse where former Officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial over the killing of George Floyd last year.

It shows “how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country,” the former first lady said in a statement.

Welcome to The Spin.

State, local health departments along with major pharmacies hit pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Dr. Allison Arwady, the head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a news conference today that she expects vaccine rates to drop in the city and across the country as health departments and major pharmacies pause use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

She also said none of the reported blood clot cases are in Illinois and stressed that the blood clot cases were rare.

While officials with the Food and Drug Administration as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were leaving it up to local public health departments to decide, many — including here in Illinois — didn’t hesitate to temporarily pull the plug until further studies are conducted. My Tribune colleagues have the full story here.

Nonetheless, Arwady said she supports the federal government’s recommendation to pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while stressing that the blood clots reported post-inoculation were rare.

She also underscored that neither the Moderna nor Pfizer vaccines have had the same issues, and that “vaccination remains absolutely critical” — a clear attempt to blunt those hesitant to get inoculated because of the headlines.

Cook County offers other COVID-19 vaccines to people who signed up for Johnson & Johnson, the Tribune’s John Byrne reports.

Data points: COVID-19 vaccination 7-day average at another new high in Illinois, but hospitalizations highest since mid-February, the Tribune’s Jenny Whidden reports.

Chicago employers could face up to $5,000 fine for not letting workers take time off to get COVID-19 vaccines, the Tribune’s John Byrne reports.

Without a high school vaccine plan, Chicago Teachers Union plans remote work action on Wednesday, the Tribune’s Hannah Leone reports. A reminder that students are returning to school buildings in waves. The district set a date of April 19 for high schoolers and staff to return to in-class learning.

But union leaders called for a one-week delay amid rising COVID-19 cases; the district is standing by the original date. So union leaders are telling high school staff, who were required to return to their buildings this week, to work remotely tomorrow.

Twenty-eight closed or temporarily closed businesses on the Magnificent Mile: My Tribune colleagues do a block-by-block analysis of where North Michigan Avenue stands a year after the start of the pandemic, unrest. Read it here.

Chicago Park District stands by decision to remove Columbus statue from West Side park

From the Tribune’s John Byrne: “The Chicago Park District says it had the authority to remove a Columbus statue from a Near West Side park, despite an Italian American organization’s argument that a decades-old agreement proves it should have been consulted first.

“Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons’ statement that ‘the District maintains it was within its rights to temporarily remove the Columbus statue from Arrigo Park’ comes after the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans unearthed a 1973 contract regarding the care of the statue.

“That deal says the Park District would check with either a Columbus Statue Committee that raised money to erect and maintain the Columbus statue or the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans ‘in perpetuity’ before making changes to the statue or plaza in Arrigo Park.”

But Lemons says it was perfectly legal to temporarily remove the statue. Mayor Lightfoot ordered several Columbus statues temporarily removed after police clashed in July near the Grant Park statue with protesters who wanted to tear it down. Full story here.

More city news: Dogs banned from Chicago firehouses after one kills smaller pet walking near Englewood fire station, the Tribune’s Charles J. Johnson reports.

Biden administration assessing whether Naval Station Great Lakes could be a temporary shelter for migrant children

As noted here yesterday, The New York Times reports that the Biden administration is under growing pressure to care for as many as 35,000 unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. at the southwestern border.

With existing shelters for children at or nearing capacity, the Times reported, the Biden aides are eyeing temporary shelters, including a Navy boot camp in Illinois. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials arranged a site visit at Naval Station Great Lakes to determine if it “would potentially be suitable for providing temporary housing for unaccompanied (migrant) children,” Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, confirmed to The Spin in an emailed statement today. The visit happened last Wednesday.

Here’s Mitchell’s full statement: “Upon request from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), DoD coordinated a site assessment April 7 for HHS personnel to determine if Naval Station Great Lakes would potentially be suitable for providing temporary housing for unaccompanied children (UAC). If provided, this support would be on a fully-reimbursable basis. DoD only provides this kind of support where it has no impact on military readiness and its ability to conduct its primary missions.

“DoD has provided such support to HHS under both of the most recent administrations, dating back as far as 2012, and most recently in February 2017.

“At this time, HHS has not formally requested the use of Great Lakes to temporarily house UAC.”

Obama says death of Black motorist in Minneapolis suburb ‘shows how badly we need to reimagine policing’

Former President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, and former first lady Michelle Obama issued a statement today as unrest builds in the Minneapolis suburb where an officer, who reportedly mistook her firearm for a Taser, shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.

“Our hearts are heavy over yet another shooting of a Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of police. The fact that this could happen even as the city of Minneapolis is going through the trial of Derek Chauvin and reliving the heart-wrenching murder of George Floyd indicates not just how important it is to conduct a full and transparent investigation, but also just how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country,” the Obamas said in a statement.

The Obamas encouraged those who want to learn more about the history of police violence in the Black community to connect with local and national organizations taking action on that front or find resources on trauma and mental health by clicking on his “Anguish and Action” page here, which is part of his Obama.org website.

Two former CPD chiefs blast city’s rules for removing problematic cops as shooting victim seeks to reinstate record $45 million award, the Tribune’s Stacy St. Clair reports.

Illinois attorney general’s office investigating hack of its computer network

From the Tribune’s Dan Petrella: “The Illinois attorney general’s office is investigating a hack of its computer network that was discovered over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.” Full story here.

“Raoul spokeswoman Annie Thompson had no immediate comment on whether the hack had affected the office’s ability to do its day-to-day work representing the state in court and working to protect consumers,” Petrella writes.

More state news: Gov. Pritzker rejects former Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd’s pardon request, the Lake County News-Sun reports.

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