Chicago actress and comedian Erica Watson dead from COVID-19 (LIVE UPDATES)Sun-Times staffon March 2, 2021 at 1:34 am

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Here’s the latest news on how COVID-19 impacted Chicago and Illinois.

The latest

Erica Watson, Chicago actress and stand-up comedian, dies from COVID-19 complications

Actress Erica Watson attends the “CHI-RAQ” New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 1, 2015 in New York City.

Chicago actress and stand-up comedian Erica Watson died in Jamaica on Saturday from COVID-19 complications, according to a family member. She was 48.

On Sunday, Watson’s brother, Eric Watson, confirmed his sister’s death via a Facebook post, writing, in part: “We are not taking this easy. Please respect our privacy right now … as we make arrangements to bring my sister home. Keep us in your prayers.”

Watson, a Kenwood Academy High School and Columbia College alumna, wore many hats as an actress, stand-up comedian, public relations representative and activist. Her acting credits and media work include Showtime’s “The Chi,” NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” Spike Lee’s feature film“Chi-Raq,” ABC 7’s “Windy City Live” and WCIU’s “The Jam.”

In 2018, Watson created “Fierce,” a cosmetic collection in a brand partnership with Nena Cosmetics, where she was one of the cover girls for their advertisements.

“When I was a little girl ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of’ was my favorite nursery rhyme, but I wasn’t the normal little girl where it was just sugar and spice and everything nice. There was a little naughty in the mix,” she told the Sun-Times in 2018.

Read Evan F. Moore’s full story here.


7:34 p.m. Restaurant owners demand city expand indoor dining to 50% capacity

Almost a year after their businesses were shut down at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants are hoping to expand indoor dining even more to help keep their establishments afloat.

The Chicago Restaurants Coalition, which represents hundreds of Chicago restaurant and bar owners, is asking the city to increase indoor dining capacity to the lesser of 50% capacity or 100 people by Thursday.

Roger Romanelli, the coalition’s coordinator, cited the city’s declining COVID-19 positivity rate, which is currently at 2.9%, the lowest since June. He added that major cities across the Midwest have all reopened indoor dining at 50% capacity or above.

“If St. Louis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Indianapolis are at or above 50%, I think Chicago needs to get with the rest of our Midwest cities and get our restaurants up to 50%,” Romanelli said.

Reporter Isabelle Sarraf has the full story.

5:30 p.m. Excitement, tears and masks as CPS students head back to school for 1st time during pandemic

Nicole Ramirez thought she’d be able to handle it, but then she saw staff at Walt Disney Magnet School swipe her 7-year-old daughter’s forehead with a thermometer.

And Ramirez started to cry.

“It’s something about everything we’ve gone through this year. Dropping her off has been really emotional for me,” said Ramirez, 40, still teary eyed as she talked Monday morning in Uptown.

Ramirez’s daughter was one of more than 37,000 K-5 Chicago Public Schools students expected to return Monday, with another 18,500 in sixth to eighth grade set to return next week. That’s the largest group to return since the pandemic started, although 145,000 have chosen to continue learning remotely.

Read the full story from Nader Issa and Stefano Esposito here.

2:52 p.m. State reports lowest daily COVID-19 caseload and positivity rate since last summer

Illinois reported an additional 1,143 new COVID-19 cases Monday — the lowest daily count in seven months — as the state continues to see a sustained decline in the positivity rate.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported an additional 20 coronavirus-related deaths Monday, including 10 from Cook County.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate stands at 2.4%, the lowest since June. The new cases were found among the 42,234 tests processed by IDPH in the last day.

The daily caseload of new infections is the lowest since July 28, when 1,076 new cases were reported.

As of Monday, IDPH was reporting a total of 1,187,839 coronavirus cases statewide, including 20,536 deaths.

A total of 2,756,831 vaccines had been administered in Illinois, including 319,393 in long-term care facilities. The seven-day rolling daily average for vaccinations stood at 77,876, according to IDPH. On Sunday, 50,897 people received vaccinations.

The state also reported 1,288 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19; of those, 308 patients were in intensive care and 148 patients were on ventilators.

Read the full story from Stefano Esposito here.

12:54 p.m. Johnson & Johnson’s one-and-done vaccine arriving in Chicago this week, mayor says

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday she expects Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine to arrive in Chicago in day or two and the city is ready to put the third option to immediate use.

Two days after the Food and Drug Administration cleared the J&J vaccine for emergency use, Lightfoot told reporters she’s chomping at the bit to take advantage of the one-and-done option it provides.

“We anticipate that it will be here, if not today, then tomorrow. I don’t have a firm lock on what the amount of doses is, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But we do expect it here this week,” the mayor said at a news conference on the gradual re-opening of Chicago Public Schools.

“We will put it to work as soon as we get it. CDPH has been preparing now for some time, as we saw the Johnson & Johnson vaccine kind of moving through the regulatory approval process. And it gives us obviously another tool to use to get people vaccinated. So we’re excited for that opportunity.”

Johnson & Johnson initially is providing a few million doses of its one-shot vaccine, with shipments to states expected to begin Monday. By the end of March, the pharmaceutical giant has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses, ramping up to 100 million doses by summer.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman here.

11:40 a.m. It’s another back-to-school Monday for CPS

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times  
Children walk to George B. Armstrong International Studies Elementary School as students return to in-person learning at the Rogers Park neighborhood school on the North Side, Monday morning, March 1, 2021.

Nicole Ramirez thought she’d be able to handle it, but then she saw staff at Walt Disney Magnet School swipe her 7-year-old daughter’s forehead with a thermometer.

And Ramirez started to cry.

“It’s something about everything we’ve gone through this year. Dropping her off has been really emotional for me,” said Ramirez, 40, still teary-eyed as she talked Monday morning.

More than 37,000 K-5 students are due to return Monday, with another 18,500 in sixth to eighth grade set to return next week. That’s in addition to the 5,000 pre-kindergarten and special education cluster program students who have been in classrooms already.

Disney Principal Paul Riskus stood outside the North Side school, greeting parents — many of whom were, perhaps not surprisingly, a little confused about which entrance to use at the sprawling concrete-and-steel campus.

“We’re ready. We’ve been getting ready since July,” Riskus said. “There have definitely been challenges, but I’m really excited about today. We feel the building is safe and we’re really just excited about seeing the kids.”

Keep reading Stefano Esposito’s story here.

9:39 a.m. Near West Side’s profit lure outlasts the pandemic’s lull

Wander the sidewalks of the Near West Side, and it’s easy to get an eerie sensation. It’s almost like a “Twilight Zone” episode about a place with evidence of human habitation right there, maybe just around the corner, and yet you don’t see anybody.

It’s just the mind playing tricks, after all. Whatever name applies — West Loop, Fulton Market, West Town — the region was Chicago’s busiest place for development and an extension of downtown’s commercial might.

It’s hushed now, as people are still staying out of offices. With capacity limits in place, restaurants are groggily stirring to life, but there is still less reason than before to be out and about, even with the weather easing up.

Look closer, though, at the signs of ongoing investment, and the neighborhood gives off a different vibe. Having recoiled in the pandemic, parts look ready to spring back to business.

Read David Roeder’s latest Chicago Enterprise column here.

New cases

Analysis & commentary

8:28 a.m. Pandemic makes obvious another great health threat to African Americans: obesity

As COVID-19 descended on us last March, the Fat Nag watched with dread and hope.

Dread, knowing this 21st-century plague would hit Black folks hardest. When it comes to health disparities, we always weigh in on the wrong side of the scale.

And as the Fat Nag always reminds, there is another plague that affects us most — our everlasting battle with obesity.

I harbored hope, however, the pandemic would usher in a new awareness that the fat is killing us.

For years, as the self-proclaimed Fat Nag, I have been reminding, railing and begging Black folks to get the fat out.

Read Laura Washington’s full column here.

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