September 20, 2021

Happy Monday.

  • Today's weather: Showers and a high of 80.

Situational awareness: Today marks the launch of our very first newsletter. As two mere mortal Chicagoans, we sadly won't be able to cover EVERY story in the city.

  • But we will do our best to make you smarter every day without forgetting what's great about Chicago. Let's get started.

Today's newsletter is 923 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Highest COVID rates in city worker neighborhoods

Maps show COVID-19 positivity rates (left) are highest in two ZIP codes where the highest concentrations of Chicago municipal workers happen to live (right). Maps: City of Chicago Coronavirus Response Center and Office of the City of Chicago Inspector General. Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

COVID hot spots have moved all over Chicago in the past 18 months, but in recent weeks, the highest rates have emerged in two ZIP codes on the far Southwest and Northwest sides, according to city data:

  • 60655 covers parts of Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood.
  • 60656 covers parts of Jefferson Park and Norwood Park.

The intrigue: These two ZIP codes carry two more distinctions.

Why it matters: Chicago taxpayers help pay health care bills for most city workers. And it costs about $20,000 to treat the average unvaccinated COVID patient in the hospital, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • Vaccination rates in the two ZIP codes are relatively low at 53% (60655) and 54% (60656) — compared to more than 90% in four downtown ZIP codes.

Driving the news: At least two major city worker unions (police and firefighters/paramedics) officially oppose Mayor Lori Lightfoot's mandate for their members to be vaccinated.

The Chicago Department of Public Health declined to comment on the COVID rates in these areas, but the high positivity and low levels of vaccination may be attributable to higher levels of vaccine hesitancy among Trump voters.

What to watch: Lightfoot has given city workers until Oct. 15 to get fully vaccinated, prompting the head of the police union to tell the Sun-Times that thousands may simply say "screw you, I'm staying home."

2. Why you can't jump in Lake Michigan

Chicagoans cooling off in the lake this summer before the beaches closed on Labor Day. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Like wearing a snazzy white outfit, swimming at Chicago beaches is a big no-no after Labor Day. In fact, you could get fined for it.

Why it matters: After a steamy weekend, Chicago is expected to remain in the 70s for much of the next 10 days, making it tempting to hop in the water — even without a Jeff Tweedy serenade.

Yes, but: Chicago Park District rules forbid "entering or remaining in the water" between Labor Day and Memorial Day weekend, when the city stops staffing beaches with lifeguards. Fines can go up to $500.

So what would happen if you jumped in anyway?

  • Park District officials can't ticket you but they do "work closely with the Chicago Police Department to enforce the rules," Park District spokesperson Michelle Lemons told Axios.
  • Still, she couldn't say if anyone's ever actually gotten a ticket.

The bottom line: If you do step in the lake, you will be doing it at your own risk.

What to watch: Axios filed an open records request with the police department for data on the number of past fines and citations … stay tuned.

3. Tips and hot links

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

💰 The mayor wants to drive her Chevy to the (tax) levy till the levy is dry. In simpler terms, your property taxes could go up. (Sun-Times)

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) was attacked Saturday night in Uptown. But police said he had minor injuries and declined medical attention. (Chicago Tribune)

📺 Local Emmy update: "Ted Lasso" won big at the Emmys and co-creator and star Jason Sudeikis thanked Chicago comedy. (Sun-Times)

🦁 Who needs bears, cubs and bulls when we have lions at the Lincoln Park Zoo. They're back! (Block Club Chicago)

🏀 The Chicago Sky finished the regular season yesterday and play the Dallas Wings in the first round of the playoffs on Thursday. (WNBA)

4. Monday morning QB: Justin Fields takes over

Quarterback Justin Fields throws the ball during the second half of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field on Sunday. Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears won their first game of the season in front of the home crowd at Soldier Field on Sunday, squeaking by the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17.

🐻 Big news: In the first half, starting quarterback Andy Dalton left the game with an injury and was replaced by first-round draft pick Justin Fields.

🏆 Play of the game: Linebacker Roquan Smith returned an interception for a touchdown to give the Bears a 17-3 lead in the 4th quarter.

🏈 Big play you won't see in highlights: After being stripped of the ball, Fields recovered his own fumble, taking the ball away from a Bengal defender who had a clear path for a touchdown.

😖 Who needs to run extra laps: Linebacker Robert Quinn inexplicably hit Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow after he was out-of-bounds, extending a drive that led to a Bengals field goal. And wide receiver Allen Robinson dropped a sure touchdown in the 4th quarter.

What's next: The Bears head to Cleveland to play the Browns next Sunday.

5. Bite Club: Shrimp donuts

The shrimp donuts at MK Noodles come in orders of five but Monica ate one before remembering to take the picture. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios.

Welcome to Bite Club, where you recommend a dish and Monica tries it.

Our first dish: Shrimp donuts at the MK Noodle in Lakeview. Ever since Monica heard about them she's felt like Homer Simpson with a donut thought bubble looming overhead.

  • She pre-ordered online from the modern Vietnamese eatery. Cost: $8.95.

The verdict: Not much like shrimp-studded dough rings (which is what she expected), but these nice, chewy, fried treats feature a blended paste of taro, chicken and shrimp coated in crunchy panko crumbs.

  • Dunked in a sweet and salty sauce, they resemble White Castle chicken rings with a touch of the sea.

What should Monica eat next? Send your recommendations to [email protected]

And remember: The first rule of Bite Club is to TALK A LOT about Bite Club.

Monica is digging the quirky AMC show "Ultra City Smiths" created by Chicagoan Steve Conrad, narrated by Tom Waits and starring Tim Meadows, Tom Waits, John C. Reilly and Bebe Neuwirth, among others.

Justin is wondering why sleep apps always feature birds chirping. It just makes him think he overslept.

Want free Axios swag? Refer your friends to Axios Chicago and get cool merch like stickers, totes, hats, T-shirts and more!