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Mayor touts ‘major improvements’ in equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine as positivity rate drops to lowest level ever

About 50% of first vaccine doses went to Black and Latino residents this week, the mayor’s office says.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot raises her fist after receiving her second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which was administered by Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Awardy at a vaccination site in the West Englewood neighborhood, Friday morning, Feb. 19, 2021.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday touted “major improvements” in getting the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of those in the city’s most vulnerable communities.

The mayor said about 50% of first doses have been given to Black and Latino residents in the most recent week — and the city plans to continue giving out thousands of shots to close the gap even further in the coming weeks.

Early on, when the focus was on health care workers and staff and residents at long-term care facilities, about 18% of vaccinations were going to Blacks or Latinos, according to the mayor’s office.

City of Chicago

But even as the effort opened up to essential workers and those over 65 in late January, the disparity continued. So last weekend, the city opened a mass vaccination site in Belmont Cragin, one of 15 communities the city determined was hardest hit during the pandemic, giving out 2,000 shots. The shots were given to anyone over 18, as long as they lived in the vulnerable community.

“As soon as we saw these numbers, we doubled down even harder on our efforts to drive these life-saving vaccines into communities that need them the most, and ensured vaccination rates among residents of all race and ethnicities matched the demographics of our city,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Friday in Gage Park, where more than 250 residents were given shots and she was given her second dose of the vaccine.

The Gage Park site, which opened Tuesday at 6057 S. Western Ave., will give out 4,000 doses over the next two months. It is being run in conjunction with Esperanza Health Centers.

Another 2,000 shots are scheduled to be given in Belmont Cragin again this weekend. Oak Street Health organized and ran that site, aided by community groups who reached out to residents in a highly targeted campaign, officials said.

With the new outreach, the breakdown of those who have received a first dose in Chicago since December is 40.8% white; 19.1% Black; 18.1% Latino; 6.7% Asian; and 3.6% other, the city said. About 11.8% of shots went to people whose race or ethnicity is unknown.

City positivity rate lowest ever

Also Friday, city officials said the COVID-19 case positivity rate — 3.5% — is at its lowest since the virus’ arrival in the city.

“Over the summer, we’d gotten down under 4%, but never this low,” said Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Arwady also said the city is now averaging about 320 new cases a day, compared with more than 3,000 at the “peak” of the pandemic a few months ago.

She attributed the drop in cases to people following guidance that includes proper social distancing and the wearing of masks.