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United Center Parking Lots To Be Used As Mass Vaccination Site As Early As March

Thousands per day could be vaccinated at the site, which officials plan to announce Friday, Ald. Walter Burnett said.

Chicagoans line up outside the United Center to vote at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Parking lots around the United Center will be used as part of a mass vaccination site — possibly as early as next month, according to an alderman who represents the area.

Thousands per day could be vaccinated at the site, which officials plan to announce Friday morning, according to Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th). People will be vaccinated through drive-thru and walk-in facilities in the parking lots.

The United Center itself will not be used. The Blackhawks and Bulls are currently using the facility for games — which fans have not been able to attend due to the pandemic.

Crain’s was first to report the news.

The site will be run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense, though the city of Chicago, Cook County, and the state are also involved, Burnett said. It’s part of a federal effort to open 100 similar facilities across the United States to increase vaccinations, according to the report.

Officials hope to use the site to get more people of color vaccinated, according to the Crain’s report. Vaccinations among Black and Latino people have lagged, though those communities have faced a disproportionate number of cases and deaths from the pandemic.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, previously said the city is considering opening mass vaccination sites at sports arenas like the United Center and Wrigley Field.

Ald. Water Burnett Jr. (27th), whose ward includes the United Center, said it would be a “great” spot for mass vaccination site. He learned of the site through the Crain’s report.

“The United Center is uniquely placed as far as transportation. It’s close to the … expressway and two ‘L’ stops. They have a good spot for it,” Burnett said.

Arwady said the city has held off because of the limited number of doses it receives from the federal government — and because the city’s snowy, cold weather would pose issues for people waiting in line. But the city and state are receiving more vaccine doses from the federal government, and the weather will begin to warm in coming weeks as spring starts in March.

The Chicago Department of Public Health and representatives for the United Center did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The state is administering an average of 66,274 vaccine doses per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. So far, Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 2,145,041 vaccine doses of the 2,693,345 directly provided to them.

More than 460,000 doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans.

Another 295,909 vaccines have been administered in long-term care facilities, which have been provided with 445,200 doses. Those vaccinations are done through a federal partnership with pharmacy chains.

All together, at least 2,440,950 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois out of 3,139,545 doses provided to entities in the state.

About one in seven Illinoisans has received their first shot, Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday. Still, the state lags behind others — and Illinois is last in the nation for second doses administered.

But Pritzker said Illinois will get an average of 100,000 doses per day as early as mid-March, helping speed up vaccinations in the state.

“Things are getting better. This pandemic will end,” Pritzker said. “But, in the meantime, we have to mask up, we have to help each other out and we’ll get through this together.”

RELATED: Finding A Coronavirus Vaccine Appointment In Chicago Is ‘Like The Hunger Games’ — But City Says It’s Focused On Equity, Not Just Speed

Chicago expects to get more vaccine doses soon, too. Last week, the city got about 7,000 first doses of vaccine per day; but this week, the city will get more than 8,300 first doses per day for the first time, Arwady said.

By the end of the week, Chicago will have received enough doses to vaccinate 31 percent of all people eligible under Phase 1B, Arwady said.

The progress means one in nine Chicagoans has now gotten their first shot of a vaccine, Arwady said; and that number rises to one in four Chicagoans among people 65 and older.

The state also started vaccinating people with underlying conditions or disabilities on Thursday. Chicago has not added people with underlying conditions or disabilities to its Phase 1B.

RELATED: Here’s How You Can Get Vaccinated Against Coronavirus In Chicago

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