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Trump Tower Vaccinated Staff At Luxury Hotel, Saying It Was Part Of Program Meant To Help Hard-Hit South And West Sides

The health department is "looking into" the vaccination event at Trump Tower, saying staff aren't yet eligible to be vaccinated and it wasn't aware of any Protect Chicago Plus events at the Downtown hotel.

Trump Tower seen during the Women's March rally in downtown Chicago on January 21, 2017.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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UPDATE: This story has been updated with new information. Read the full update here: Trump Tower Workers Got Vaccines From West Side Hospital — Whose COO Owns A Condo In Luxury Highrise

DOWNTOWN — Trump Tower vaccinated its staff members against coronavirus — and the city’s health department is investigating what happened.

A vaccination provider came to the luxury tower — which serves condo residents and hotel guests — last week to vaccinate staff through an event organized by tower management, multiple sources told Block Club. Hotel and tower residence staff members are not eligible to be vaccinated yet — and while a Trump Tower official said the event was done under the city’s Protect Chicago Plus campaign, Chicago Department of Public Health leaders said they aren’t aware of any such vaccination event happening at the tower.

The Protect Chicago Plus campaign is meant to target residents of 15 community areas on the city’s South and West sides hit hard by COVID-19. The Downtown area, where Trump Tower is located, is not among them.

A Department of Public Health spokesman said they’ve reached out to Trump Tower to find out how the vaccination event occurred.

The vaccination event at the Downtown tower,  401 N. Wabash Ave., comes as many in Chicago who are eligible to be vaccinated and most at risk from COVID-19 are still struggling to find an appointment and get their shots.

“… We’re looking into it,” the spokesman said. ” … I will say the Protect Chicago Plus program is intended for those designated communities, so we will be looking to find out what happened.”

Multiple employees from the tower’s hotel and residence sides told a Trump Tower resident they’ve been vaccinated at the tower over the past few months, despite not appearing to fit into the city’s or state’s eligibility criteria for vaccination, the resident told Block Club. Last week, a group of young employees told the resident they were offered vaccinations at the tower March 10, the resident said.

Multiple Trump Tower employees confirmed to Block Club they were given the option as employees to be vaccinated. One employee who works in a restaurant in the tower said the shots were administered at the Trump property.

The resident emailed Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, about their concerns. Arwady almost immediately forwarded the email to her staff. A worker with the health department replied and said the health department was not aware of an on-site vaccination at the tower, and its employees would not be prioritized until the city moved into 1C at the end of March, emails show.

The resident asked to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation for reporting the vaccination event.

In a document obtained by Block Club Chicago, a Trump Tower official wrote that the on-site vaccination event at Trump Tower happened after a medical facility that is “part of the Protect Chicago Plus network” identified and contacted Trump Tower. The executive said hotel workers are exposed to people who are traveling nationally and internationally, and by vaccinating employees, it would limit spread in the tower.

A health department spokesman confirmed to Block Club hotel employees shouldn’t be vaccinated yet under current vaccination guidelines. City officials there aren’t aware of the March 10 vaccination event described by the executive and are looking into it, the spokesman said.

In the document, the Trump Tower executive wrote that they were “not certain of the logistics of how Chicago Plus operates/reports.”

Trump Tower officials did not return multiple requests for comment.

While it’s possible employees could individually be vaccinated in Chicago for other reasons — like if they have a second job where they’ve been deemed a frontline worker, if they’re 65 or older or if they live in a Protect Chicago Plus community — those criteria would not apply to the Trump Tower organization vaccinating a broad swath of employees Downtown.

Protect Chicago Plus is a program intended to increase opportunities for people to get vaccinated on the South and West sides, where coronavirus has ravaged communities of color. Vaccination events that are part of the program are only open to residents of those areas and are held in those communities.

The city has prioritized vaccinations for people 65 and older, who are most at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, and frontline workers regularly exposed to COVID-19 since the supply of doses is so low. The Protect Chicago Plus program also opens vaccinations to any resident in its targeted community areas through special events since those areas have faced disproportionate losses during the pandemic.

Demand remains extremely high, with many people who are eligible reporting issues finding available appointments. Just one in six Chicagoans had received their first dose as of Friday.

Protect Chicago Plus is a part of the city’s equity distribution strategy, Arwady has said, to ensure the communities hardest hit by coronavirus have access to vaccination.

” … Pushing the vaccine in that way is not just the right thing to do for equity, it is also the thing that lowers everybody’s risk for COVID in Chicago,” Arwady has said.

Ethicists have debated this approach, questioning if it would ultimately be more effective to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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