CHICAGO — Loretto Hospital on the West Side vaccinated workers at Trump Tower Downtown, officials acknowledged Tuesday — but the hospital’s story about how the event happened directly contradicts what a Trump executive said happened.
Chicago Department of Public Health officials said they are investigating the March 10 vaccination event. It’s unclear why workers at former President Donald Trump’s namesake, luxury hotel were prioritized for vaccines — where one of Loretto’s chief executives owns a condo — while similar hotel workers have not been allowed to get the shots.
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.
Loretto Hospital is a small, 122-bed hospital that operates in the underserved West Side, where people of color have been hit hard by coronavirus and few people have been vaccinated. Trump Tower is Downtown, where the virus’s impact has not been felt as much — but where more vaccinations have been done.
One of Loretto’s executives, Chief Operating Officer Anosh Ahmed, owns a unit in the tower. He did not return multiple requests for comment and hospital staff said he left early Tuesday.
The hospital has done other off-site vaccination events, all on the West Side of Chicago, the area the hospital serves, a spokeswoman said. But those events happened at schools, subsidized housing facilities and churches in the hospital’s service area — not at big-name, Downtown businesses like Trump Tower.
A spokeswoman for Loretto Hospital said the hospital’s leaders were “under the impression” the people they vaccinated were eligible.
“After subsequent conversations with the Chicago Department of Public Health, they have learned they were mistaken and will be following all city guidance regarding community testing moving forward,” the spokeswoman said.
Multiple employees from the tower’s hotel and residence sides told a Trump Tower resident they’ve been vaccinated at the tower, despite not appearing to qualify for 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 who works in a restaurant in the tower said the shots were administered at the Trump property.
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.
But Loretto Hospital’s explanation of the vaccination event conflicts with the Trump Tower executive’s statement.
Loretto Hospital provided the doses and vaccinated staff at Trump Tower, a spokeswoman said, but it was not a Protect Chicago Plus event. While Loretto supplied the doses, it did not use shots meant for residents in Protect Chicago Plus communities, she wrote.
The Trump Tower executive said they were approached by a medical provider about the vaccination opportunity.
But the hospital spokeswoman said it was “West Side residents” who work at Trump Tower who reached out to the hospital and requested that they be vaccinated.
Loretto Hospital said it vaccinated 72 “predominantly” Black and Brown restaurant, housekeeping and other hotel support personnel” at Trump Tower.
But not everyone who was vaccinated at the event was a West Side resident or eligible for a shot. The vaccinations were broadly offered and administered to the tower’s employees, including people who were white, according to employees and a resident.
The Trump Tower official made no mention of the employees’ race or where they reside when explaining why the tower was chosen for the vaccination event. Instead, they said Trump Tower was chosen for the program because employees come into contact with a lot of international and national travelers, and vaccinating them prevents spread.
Hotel employees are not allowed to be vaccinated yet under current Chicago Department of Public Health rules, a health department spokesman confirmed. City officials were not aware of the vaccination event and are investigating what happened, the spokesman said.
The city declined to answer Block Club’s questions about the event or investigations, but Loretto acknowledged it’d heard from officials.
“The Chicago Department of Public Health has been in contact with hospital leadership to clarify the department’s guidance regarding community vaccinations moving forward,” according to Loretto Hospital.
Trump Tower officials have not returned 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, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the health department, 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.
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