Chicago makes plans for first mass vaccination sites as health care workers outside hospitals are slated for shots

Dan Petrella, Chicago Tribune

Chicago plans to open its first mass vaccination sites next week to help inoculate more health care workers against the coronavirus, the city’s top health official said Tuesday.

Vaccinations will be available by appointment only starting next week exclusively for health care workers in Chicago, city Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. Further details will be coming later.

Like in the rest of Illinois and the country, Chicago’s first wave of immunizations with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine focused on hospital staff members. But as shipments of a second vaccine from Moderna begin to arrive, the city will be expanding to include workers in outpatient facilities, Arwady said.

“That would be doctors’ offices and COVID testing sites that are at higher risk for COVID,” she said. “We’re looking at which sites are doing a lot of COVID testing, where are we seeing a lot of positive tests, where do we see a lot of deaths?”

Arwady previewed the plan for the city’s first mass vaccination sites at a news conference at the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop with Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.

Earlier Tuesday, the trio visited St. Anthony Hospital in the South Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side and saw workers being vaccinated.

“Your health care workers out there are busting their tail to continue to provide top-notch care,” Adams said.

The surgeon general commended Illinois and Chicago on recent positive developments in their fight against the pandemic but said ongoing adherence to public health recommendations is needed to continue those trends.

State health officials on Tuesday reported 6,239 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, a significant jump from the 4,699 cases reported a day earlier, though health officials caution against reading too much into day-to-day fluctuations in the data.

The seven-day average of new cases statewide was down to 6,833 as of Tuesday, the lowest it’s been since the week ending Nov. 3, which was before the state started reporting both confirmed and probable cases.

In all, there have been 911,308 cases of COVID-19 in Illinois since the pandemic began.

The state also recorded 116 more fatalities Tuesday, bring the December death toll to 3,136, surpassing May as the deadliest month of the pandemic. There have been 15,414 coronavirus-related deaths statewide since March.

Illinois averaged 129 deaths per day over the past week, still above the spring peak of 118 daily deaths in mid-May but down from an average of 146 deaths per day a week earlier.

The statewide case positivity rate — the percentage of positive cases as a share of total tests — reached a seven-day average of 7.4% for the week ending Monday, the lowest it’s been since late October, when Illinois and much of the nation were in the midst of a fall COVID-19 surge.

While Ezike, the state health director, has said Illinois as a whole didn’t see another surge in cases and positivity rate due to the Thanksgiving weekend, Arwady said Chicago is just starting to see its holiday-related upswing subside.

All three doctors encouraged the public the refrain from unnecessary travel and gathering with people outside of their own households over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

dpetrella@chicagotribune.com