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Two years after IL’s first COVID death, where are we?

By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_


There are a lot of 2020 COVID-19 anniversaries that feel significant — the day CPS went remote, the day restaurants and bars closed, the day Gov. JB Pritzker issued the state stay-at-home order. 

But two years ago today, Auburn Gresham resident Patricia Frieson was the first Illinoisan to die from the novel coronavirus. 

After having trouble breathing, the 61-year-old retired nurse spent four days at the University of Chicago Medical Center before dying March 16, 2020 — alone.

Being the first to die of it here is just a barrier to our grieving. It could have been the 10th, doesn’t matter. The whole point is, she’s not here anymore,” brother Anthony Frieson told the Chicago Sun-Times at the time.

Nine days later, her sister Wanda Bailey also died from COVID-19 without any visitors at St. James Hospital in south suburban Olympia Fields, according to The Triibe

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 33,000 Illinoisans have died from COVID-19 — including more than 7,500 in Chicago

Black Chicagoans have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, making up more than half of the city’s COVID-related deaths in January during the omicron surge, CBS News reported. Black Chicagoans also remain the least vaccinated group in the city. 

But there are public and private efforts to close the gap, including the city’s home-vaccination program, church leaders’ intervention, and more health care options like the incoming Auburn Gresham health center

👉 Read this poem in the Frieson and Bailey sisters’ memory. 
🗓️ Look back on other significant COVID-19 dates.


🐠 Homewood resident Darius McGee took his daughters to the Shedd Aquarium before the 2020 shutdowns: “That was my last dose of normal.”

✈️ Reader Alicia said, “The last normal thing I did B.C. (before covid) was fly coach internationally without a mask.” 

What was the last normal thing you did before COVID shutdowns? Are you back at it? Email, or text/call (773) 780-0246.


If you need snow shoveled in your neighborhood, a pothole filled, or rats cleared in your alley, you call 311. 

Since 1999, Chicagoans have called 311 for non-emergency complaints and requests more often per capita than any other large city. While some of the reasons people call aren’t surprising, Axios Chicago’s Monica Eng says 311 operators can be like residents’ own Google — you can call about anything from how to track a flight to how to buy a home. 

🎧 She tells us what Chicagoans complain most about. (Hint: potholes, airplane noise, and dead animal pickups 🤔)


ICYMI: City Cast Chicago is taking ads for the pod and the newsletter. Speak to Chi’s best audience — the Chicagoans who are trying new restaurants but aren’t being snobs about it, involved in their communities, exploring neighborhoods, and staying in the know. 

Check out our advertising options, or just email


▪️ The officers who killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez in separate incidents almost a year ago will not face criminal charges. [Block Club Chicago]

▪️ Amid disagreement over ward remapping, voters are getting closer to deciding. View the maps from the Latino and Black caucuses. [Crain’s Chicago]

▪️ Illinois’ undocumented senior population is expected to grow 1,300% in a decade, but many don’t have savings, can’t buy a house, and don’t have a path to citizenship. [Injustice Watch, Chicago Tribune]

▪️ Applicants for 11th Ward alder are out! The new Southwest Side alder could be confirmed as early as next week. Check out their resumes.

▪️ Check out this art exhibit in Pilsen by local sex workers. [Rebellious]

▪️ It is Girl Scout cookie season, but give this Samoa cake from Aya Pastry a try 🤤 [Chicago Reader]


We’re coming up on City Cast Chicago’s first birthday Thursday! This is producer Simone Alicea’s favorite episode from our first year. 

“Anyone who knows me knows I love a complicated policy story. And in doing the podcast, I’ve learned so much about the way this city is built, the systems that perpetuate inequity, and the people fighting to change those systems.

But the episode that really made me feel close to Chicago? When we talked about and tasted Chicago foods that weren’t hot dogs or pizza

To go from the Palmer House’s original brownie — with roots in the 1893 World’s Fair — to the delightful cultural hodgepodge of a late-night pizza puff, is to experience the breadth of Chicago. Now I just need to get my hands on a sweet steak sandwich 🤤”

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