Axios Chicago

Picture of the Chicago skyline.

Happy Wednesday. It's National Banana Bread Day β€” a perfect excuse to have a slice with a hot cup of tea on a chilly February afternoon.

Today's newsletter is 940 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: City mask rules change Monday

Illustration of a pattern of covid masks.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Citing improved COVID-19 metrics, city and Cook County officials yesterday announced a relaxation of mask and vaccination rules starting Monday, Feb. 28.

Why it matters: The move reflects dramatic improvements in local COVID conditions β€” including a 10-fold drop in cases since Jan. 4. β€” and is in line with state mask changes.

Details: While masks will no longer be required in stores, entertainment venues and restaurants, they will still be mandatory on public transit, in healthcare settings and in some school districts, including CPS.

  • Customers will no longer have to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, venues and gyms, as part of a blanket city rule.

What they're saying: "I feel very confident that we are on the right path," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a press conference.

  • "But certainly in the short term, I'm going [to keep] wearing a mask. I was one of the people who caught COVID during Omicron and while I had a mild case, I don't want to put myself at risk."
  • "So, particularly in a restaurant setting where I have no idea whether or not the people that are sitting around me are vaccinated, I'll be wearing a mask."

Yes, but: The city's move does not prevent some venues from continuing to impose mask and vaccination rules of their own.

  • Chicago's Independent Venue League released a statement Tuesday afternoon asking patrons to stay "vigilant" and ready to follow specific venue rules.
  • "This means saving that picture of your vaccine card on your phone and keeping a mask in your back pocket," the statement said. "Every venue is different, and for many, these small efforts have brought relief."

What's next: Health chief Allison Arwady said mask rules could return, "if we get back into a higher risk setting."

2. College scholarships for students β€” and parents

Illustration of a graduation cap but the tassel is a ladder.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Thousands of Chicago students β€” plus their parents β€” will have a better shot at graduating from college with a full-ride scholarship, per Marina E. Franco (Noticias Telemundo for Axios).

The program, run by Hope Chicago, will give scholarships to mostly Black and Latino students at five CPS high schools starting this fall semester.

  • The names of the schools will be revealed each morning this week in surprise announcements. Tuesday's reveal was Benito JuΓ‘rez Community Academy.

Why it matters: Studies show that fear of incurring unpayable debt deters many students of color from going to college.

  • U.S. Department of Education data also shows Latinos have lower college completion rates than white non-Hispanics.
  • Latino and Black graduates who take out college loans are saddled with that debt much longer than their peers, according to Federal Reserve data.

The intrigue: The program doesn't just offer scholarships to students β€” it'll also give funds to one parent to enroll in a two- or four-year program or in a trade certification curriculum.

  • The idea is to make education attainable across multiple generations in order "to foster equity," said Pete Kadens of Hope Chicago in a statement.

Go deeper for the full Axios Latino story.

3. Tips and hot links

Illustration of the Bean in Chicago.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ“Ί Chicago Tonight went to Ukrainian Village to highlight the community in light of the ongoing Russia conflict. (WTTW)

😎 House leaders met to talk about cooling down the chaos in Springfield after last week's removal of Republicans who violated the mask rules in the General Assembly. (Capitol Fax)

🚌 The CTA is looking to make its bus fleet all electric by 2040. (Sun-Times)

🍸 The California Clipper is back! The mainstay bar on California Ave. since the 1930s has re-opened under new owners after two years of sitting dormant. (Block Club)

Bloom your career

🌸 Growth is effortless with our Local Job Board.

  1. Investment Analyst - Commercial Real Estate Finance at Northmarq.
  2. Senior Manager, SEO at Sprout Social.
  3. Account Director at Reputation Partners.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a Job.

4. Readers go deep on subs

Photo of a sandwich.

The Blockbuster from Fontano's in Little Italy on Polk. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

After we recommended Italian subs at J.P Graziano and Tempesta Market last week, we learned that you love eating (and arguing about) Chicago subs as much as we do.

  • We were deluged by your submissions, many for the same favorite spots.
  • They're listed roughly in order of your most popular responses.

Phil C: "You can't beat a Wiseguy or the Blockbuster from the original Fontano's in Little Italy! Makes me hungry just thinking about it."

  • Nathan K: "I’m partial to the Big Al from Fontano's on Michigan in the Loop."
Photo of a sandwich.
Italian sub from Bari on Grand. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Mareva L: "My partner (who’s a grinder aficionado from the East Coast) and I love Bari!"

  • Daniel B recommends Bari, too.

Cheryl S and Monica H: "Capt'n Nemo's Northern Italian - they know their subs! Salami, Mortadella, Provolone, chopped Olive Dressing. Delicious!"

Thom C: "If I ever go downtown again, Harry's Sandwich at the south end of the Monadnock building."

Photo of a sandwich.
We loved the Diavolo at Riviera Foods on Harlem, featuring freshly sliced soppressata, capocollo, prosciutto and mozzarella balls, plus spicy giardiniera, on crisp but tender Italian bread. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Stephen S: "Be enlightened and go to Riviera Foods and get the Classic Italian!"

Lisa W: "The Il Milano or the Napolitano at Piatto Pronto in Andersonville are yummy, especially after working out across the street."

Go deeper for all of your favorite subs.

5. Justin is in ... Riverside

Photo of a man in front of a train station.

Justin loves Riverside. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

We may have the most well-read AND well-traveled readers in Chicago. You overwhelmingly guessed correctly our latest location quiz β€” Justin was in Riverside, Illinois.

  • Riverside was designated a historic landmark in 1970 because of the wide variety of stellar architecture, including the water tower Justin was standing in front of.

Details: The village is located along the Des Plaines River and is worth a quick day trip.

  • Riverside offers tours, including virtual options.

πŸ‘ Laura B & Valerie G were picked randomly to win Axios swag at our next live event!

6. Photo of the day: women voting for mayor

Photo of a woman voting.

Photo: Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Women were first allowed to vote in the Chicago mayoral election 107 years ago today. Here's William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson and his wife, Mary Walker Wyse, voting on Feb. 23, 1915.

Our picks:

🩺 Monica is finally reading "Mountains Beyond Mountains" to learn more about the inspirational public health work of Dr. Paul Farmer, who died this week.

πŸ¦‡ Justin may go back to the movies for the upcoming The Batman. I'm a sucker for DC Comics.

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