CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was “disappointed” by Loretto Hospital’s vaccination event at Trump Tower last week — and said officials know it “was a mistake.”
The event — and the fact that one of the hospital’s leaders bragged about vaccinating Eric Trump the day of the event — was first reported by Block Club. The hospital has acknowledged it did vaccinate hotel workers who were not eligible, and Lightfoot has said she told the city’s health chief to “dig deeper” to verify the hospital’s story about what happened.
The health department is investigating the event, officials have said.
“Of course I was disappointed to hear about it,” Lightfoot said during a Wednesday news conference. “They know it was a mistake. I’ve asked Dr. Arwady to dig deeper to make sure that … to trust but verify. To make sure that what they told us, the COO who decided to host this event, that it was limited to hotel workers and not some other circumstances.
“But they recognize that this was a mistake and absolutely can never be repeated. It’s a cautionary tale for any other provider.”
Hospital officials said the March 10 vaccine event held at the Downtown luxury hotel at 401 N. Wabash Ave. was meant to benefit predominantly Black and Brown hotel workers. Officials later said they made a mistake by offering doses meant for West Siders to hotel employees before they were eligible.
The hospital’s chief operating officer, Dr. Anosh Ahmed, is also facing heavy criticism because he told people he vaccinated Trump — son of the former president — the same day of the event. Ahmed lives in Trump Tower.
Official Said He Was ‘Joking’ About Vaccinating Eric Trump
In a photo obtained by Block Club Chicago, Ahmed poses with a smiling Trump, the son of former President Donald Trump. In a text message, Ahmed bragged about vaccinating Trump that day: “Vaccinated Eric Trump,” he said after sharing the photo. He also shared a message praising Trump, calling him a “cool guy.”
Ahmed shared the photo with people on March 10 — the same day Loretto Hospital held the vaccination event at Trump Tower, where Ahmed owns a unit. Metadata from the photo confirms it was taken the afternoon of March 10 at or near Trump Tower.
Trump is an executive vice president and trustee of the Trump Organization, which owns the Trump Tower hotel and residence. The millionaire would not have been eligible to be vaccinated in Chicago.
In a statement sent through a spokeswoman after Block Club’s first story published, Ahmed said his claim was a “joke” and denied vaccinating Trump.
“Eric Trump happened to be in the building but we did not vaccinate him,” Ahmed said in the statement. “A few residents including myself did take a photo with him. My post was meant as a joke … .”
Ahmed said Trump has an “anti-vaccine stance,” but Trump has not publicly shared anti-vaccine stances that Block Club could find. His father, Donald Trump, and his stepmother were vaccinated while at the White House. The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In addition to owning a unit in Trump Tower, sources said Ahmed has told people he is friends with Trump.
Three days after the vaccine event, on March 13, Trump tweeted photos showing Trump Tower alongside the Chicago River, which had been dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day.
The Mayor’s Office has not responded to requests for comment on Ahmed’s actions, but Lightfoot criticized the hospital’s vaccination event at the tower.
Improper Vaccination Event
The March 10 vaccination event at the tower 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 to get vaccinated.
Loretto Hospital is a small, 122-bed hospital that operates on 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.
The city has highlighted Loretto’s work as an example of its goal of equitably vaccinating people — even insisting on having the city’s first vaccine doses administered there to show how Chicago would prioritize West and South side communities that are often ignored.
Lightfoot said Loretto has been a “tremendous partner” with the city on vaccinations and has “owned responsibility” for the improper vaccinations.
“We have a finite amount of vaccine in the city,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve been really, really careful to make sure that we’re using it in a way that prioritizes the most vulnerable people who are most at risk and most at risk of spreading it. We’re not gonna do what we’ve seen in other parts of the country and just have a free for all.
“… We just can’t have something like this happen again.”
In a letter to Loretto’s staff, the hospital’s CEO, George Miller, took responsibility for the March 10 event, saying he authorized it.
Loretto Hospital has done other off-site vaccination events, but all were staged on the West Side of Chicago near the hospital, a spokeswoman said. 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.
Hospital leaders were “under the impression” the hotel workers they vaccinated at Trump Tower on March 10 were eligible to be vaccinated, a spokeswoman said, despite well-publicized guidelines that make it clear hotel workers aren’t eligible until the city enters phase 1C.
“After subsequent conversations with the Chicago Department of Public Health, they have learned they were mistaken and will be following all city guidance … moving forward,” the spokeswoman said of hospital workers who staged the vaccination event.
Multiple employees from the tower’s hotel and residential 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.
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 both Loretto and the city health department said the vaccination event was not part of Protect Chicago Plus, 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 Trump Tower executive also said in the document they were approached by a medical provider about the vaccination opportunity, but a hospital spokeswoman said it was “West Side residents” who work at Trump Tower who requested they be vaccinated.
Loretto Hospital said it vaccinated 72 “predominantly” Black and Brown restaurant, housekeeping and other hotel support personnel” at Trump Tower, but the vaccines were broadly offered and administered to the tower’s employees.
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.
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. Fewer than one in five Chicagoans had received their first dose as of Wednesday.
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.
Stephanie Lulay and Bob Chiarito contributed to this report.
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