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More mass vaccination sites shutting down as COVID-19 positivity rate dips below 2% for first time ever

Three suburban mass vax sites are closing as officials try to target communities where inoculation rates have lagged, shifting to “a granular focus on making vaccines as comfortable, convenient, and accessible as possible.”

Residents receive COVID-19 vaccines at the Tinley Park Convention Center in January. The mass vaccination site is closing along with two others in suburban Cook County as demand fades.
Residents receive COVID-19 vaccines at the Tinley Park Convention Center in January. The mass vaccination site is closing along with two others in suburban Cook County as demand fades.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Illinois’ COVID-19 testing positivity rate keeps falling, and so does the demand for vaccines.

With the average statewide infection rate sinking below 2% for the first time ever Thursday, the doors were closed on three suburban mass vaccination sites as officials take a more targeted approach to get more life-saving shots into arms.

Cook County County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was scheduled to “clap out” workers administering the final shots Thursday afternoon at a mass vax site at the Tinley Park Convention Center. It’s one of six large-scale sites that have provided hundreds of thousands of shots to residents since the start of the year.

But with vaccines now easy to come by at most pharmacies and doctors’ offices — and with about half of Illinois adults fully immunized — the Tinley location is closing down along with those in South Holland and River Grove. After administering some final shots on Thursday, their operations will be consolidated with sites in Forest Park, Des Plaines and Matteson.

Cook County Health officials say the next phase of a historic vaccination campaign will focus on “redeploying resources to support hyperlocal, community-based vaccination initiatives.”

Dozens of mass vax sites are still operating statewide, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker agreed a shift in strategy will attempt to bring doses directly to communities that have been hard to reach.

“Two-thirds of Illinois residents have received their first dose of this lifesaving vaccine, and we are moving forward with a granular focus on making vaccines as comfortable, convenient, and accessible as possible,” Pritzker said in a statement. “That’s why we’re bringing vaccine to more and more doctors’ offices, pharmacies, urgent care clinics and even directly into the community through mobile clinics that visit workplaces, neighborhood organizations, nonprofits and religious groups.”

About 41% of the state population have been fully vaccinated. With 63,717 more residents rolling up sleeves Wednesday, the state is averaging 67,485 shots given per day over the past week. That’s barely half the rate at which doses were being administered at Illinois’ peak in mid-April.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

The shots that have already gone into arms have helped tamp coronavirus infection rates to the lowest levels seen since the virus first hit the state.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 891 new cases were diagnosed among 67,705 tests, lowering the average positivity rate to a new all-time low of 1.9%.

But the virus claimed 42 more lives, including two Cook County residents in their 40s. About 1.4 million Illinoisans have been infected overall, and 22,718 have died.

Chicago officials are targeting South and West Side neighborhoods where vaccination rates are barely a third of those in some whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. Five city-sponsored vaccination events were scheduled for Friday:

  • North Austin Library, 5724 W. North Ave.
  • Kingdom Baptist Church Food Pantry, 301 N. Central Ave.
  • Crusaders Church Food Distribution, 7859 S. Ashland Ave.
  • Humboldt Park, 1301 N. Humboldt Drive
  • NOBLE Hansberry College Prep, 8748 S Aberdeen St.

To sign up for an appointment elsewhere in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835. The city is offering in-home vaccinations to any resident 65 or older, as well as those with disabilities or underlying health conditions.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.