Bertha Arina receives her COVID-19 vaccine from Ilse Vega, a nurse practitioner from Esperanza, in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood in February. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

LITTLE VILLAGE — As coronavirus cases rise in Chicago due to the Delta variant, four local health care providers will require vaccinations for staff.

Esperanza Health Centers, Alivio Medical Center, AHS Family Health Center and CommunityHealth announced the vaccine requirement for staff in a joint statement, citing an effort to increase patient and staff safety.

The health care providers, which serve nearly 80,000 low-income patients, are mandating that employees receive at least one vaccination by Sept. 1.

“This decision was not taken lightly, but the rapid increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations requires us to be especially proactive at a time when highly effective vaccines are widely available,” said Dan Fulwiler, president and CEO of Esperanza Health Centers.

Fulwiler said preserving the health of personnel, patients and employees was a “top responsibility.”

“We believe this measure will help us better protect our families and communities,” Fulwiler said.

RELATED: Chicago’s COVID-19 Hospitalizations, Deaths Likely To Rise, Top Doc Says — But People Can Be Protected By Getting Vaccinated

After a decline in cases for a few months, Chicago’s positivity rate has climbed to 3.3 percent, up from .5 percent about a month ago, on July 6. It’s also reporting an average of 243 cases per day — and saw 340 confirmed cases just in the past day. In comparison, on July 6, the city reported an average of 33 cases per day.

In Illinois, about 6.5 million people of all ages — or 51.13 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccine shots, according to state data.

The four medical centers follow Rush and the University of Chicago Medical Center, which are requiring staff to be vaccinated.

Rush will require staff to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, according to ABC7.

In announcing the vaccination mandate, the University of Chicago Medical Center cited government data showing that of the 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States in May, 99.2 percent of individuals were not vaccinated.

Health care experts have noted the Delta variant is much more contagious than past variants.

Esperanza Health Centers, Alivio Medical Center, AHS Family Health Center and CommunityHealth said they plan to offer personalized education to unvaccinated staff.

The four providers will make exceptions for medical or religious reasons on a case-by-case basis.

“As community health centers, we’ve already seen up close the kind of devastation the pandemic has wrought in the low-income communities that we serve,” said Esther Corpuz, CEO of Alivio Medical Center. 

“We also know that vaccine mandates can be extraordinarily effective at increasing vaccination, which is our number one public health priority. If we can contribute to that effort, and encourage other businesses and organizations to follow suit, we may blunt the impact of this latest increase in cases,” Corpuz said.

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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Pilsen, Little Village and West Loop reporterrnrnmauricio@blockclubchi.orgnnPilsen, Little Village and West Loop Twitter @MauricioPena