City ‘vaccine ambassadors’ going door-to-door to boost rates on South, West sides as Chicago nears reopening

About 52% of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot, but rates are much higher in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods, especially downtown, where all residents have been covered in a few ZIP codes.

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Dr. Allison Arwady walks away from a home in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in March during a canvassing event to share information on COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine ambassadors will be in 13 Chicago neighborhoods this weekend.

Dr. Allison Arwady walks away from a home in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in March during a canvassing event to share information on COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine ambassadors will be in 13 Chicago neighborhoods this weekend.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Canvassers will fan out across the city this weekend in an effort to get more people vaccinated before Chicago fully reopens next week along with the rest of the state.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is deploying teams of “vaccine ambassadors” to the 13 neighborhoods with the lowest vaccination rates, mostly on the South and West sides.

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“They will be going door to door, literally knocking on every door, to encourage residents to get vaccinated against COVID,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Friday while kicking off the hyperlocal campaign in Englewood, where only 29.5% of residents have gotten a shot — the lowest percentage in the city.

“We’ll be going community by community, block by block, house by house, talking to Chicagoans and answering questions about the safety and effectiveness, and then letting them know where they can get vaccinated,” Arwady said.

About 52% of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot, but rates are much higher in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods, especially downtown, where all residents have been covered in a few ZIP codes.

Barely a third of residents have gotten a dose in the lower-income neighborhoods of color that city officials are zeroing in on, including South Deering, Hegewisch, West Englewood, Austin and West Garfield Park.

Chicago vaccine ambassador Wallace “Gator” Bradley” speaks at an Englewood news conference Friday.

Chicago vaccine ambassador Wallace “Gator” Bradley” speaks at an Englewood news conference Friday.

Transmisión en directo de la Municipalidad de Chicago

“If you go north of Roosevelt Road, everything is opened up because everybody is vaccinated,” said ambassador Wallace “Gator” Bradley, a former gang enforcer turned community activist. “So our community, the power that we have — we are the voices. … A lot of us have friends and family members that died from this, so it’s very important.”

Canvassers will also target Auburn Gresham, Chatham, East Garfield Park, Montclare, Riverdale, Roseland and South Shore.

Statewide, two-thirds of adults have gotten a shot, and 51% are fully vaccinated. The latest 53,156 shots went into arms Thursday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Officials also reported 626 new cases of the disease were diagnosed among 65,300 tests to decrease the average statewide positivity rate to yet another all-time low of 1.3%. Hospitals are admitting fewer COVID-19 patients than at any point over the past year, too, with 901 beds occupied Thursday night.

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 virus claimed 15 more Illinois lives, but a drastic improvement in overall infection numbers over the past month has Chicago and the rest of the state on track to fully reopen June 11.

“After a tremendously challenging year, Illinois has now reached a defining moment in our efforts to defeat COVID-19,” Pritzker said in a statement confirming reopening plans. “Thanks to the hard work of residents across the state, Illinois will soon resume life as we knew it before — returning to events, gatherings, and a fully reopened economy, with some of the safety guidelines we’ve adopted still in place.”

The reopening means a return to business as usual without capacity limits in any venues, though the state still recommends unvaccinated people wear face coverings. Everyone is still required to mask up regardless of vaccination status on planes and public transit, as well as congregate settings like jails and nursing homes, plus health care settings. Masks are required at schools, too, except for outdoor activities.

Since last March, 1.4 million Illinoisans have tested positive for COVID-19, and 22,880 have died.

For help finding a vaccine appointment 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.

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