Governor JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday a new initiative to provide vaccines to downtown Chicago workers.
JB PRITZKER: Well, good morning, everyone.
– Good morning.
JB PRITZKER: And thank you very much for the Building Owners and Managers Association. Their willingness to host us this morning has been terrific. They’ve worked closely with us. It’s Chicago Executive Director Farzin Parang and it’s Suburban Chicago Executive Director Michael Mulcrone.
I’m also proud to be here with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, with IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, with SEIU Local 1 president Tom Balanoff. I also want to welcome [INAUDIBLE], who is here to tell her story about vaccinations, as well as Nancy Salman, a Walgreens pharmacist whose team has made today’s announcement possible.
Illinois, like the nation as a whole, has reached a point where, by and large, all the people who were immediately eager to get vaccinated have already been vaccinated. That means instead of facing a shortage, requiring us to conserve every drop of vaccine and demanding patience from everyone who wants to get vaccinated, we now have vaccine available to anyone who wants a shot, whenever they want one. That’s why we can now broaden the number and type of locations where people can get vaccinated.
I’m here in the Loop in the heart of downtown Chicago’s business district to announce yet another expansion of opportunities for Illinoisans to get vaccinated. Starting this week, if you work downtown in Chicago and other cities across Illinois work is quite literally where the vaccines will be. Our vaccination teams will be showing up to major commercial buildings here in Chicago and other Illinois business districts to offer accessible free vaccination opportunities to people in the comfort of their own workplaces.
Many of these buildings’ employees have been here day in and day out the entirety of the pandemic– security workers, front desk staff, custodians, and building engineers. For many of their buildings’ tenants, remote work is coming to an end. Having vaccine available where you work makes getting vaccinated very convenient.
It’s exciting to see traffic in commercial districts across Illinois begin to pick up after a long year apart, an achievement only possible because of the lifesaving protections of vaccines and the consequent reduction of cases and hospital admissions. More vaccinations will mean more of a return to normal for everyone.
I’m announcing this initiative made possible by our Illinois Walgreens’ teams so those returning to these office buildings will be able to keep each other safe and keep their workplaces COVID-free. If you haven’t had the chance to get a vaccination yet, or you weren’t sure if it was worth the trek, you can now get one right at your place of work.
SEIU and other area unions, local businesses, and the building managers have worked hand-in-hand with IDPH to make this as convenient as possible. That’s why our initial clinics at commercial buildings all take place during a shift change, so that we can catch as many workers as possible.
Starting today, participating buildings and their corporate tenants and union staff will be able to sign up for vaccinations at their workplaces. And later this week, these clinics will open up to area businesses and the general public, too. And of course, if the demand is there, will be back for even more vaccination clinics.
This vaccination program is starting off with major key commercial offices around the state, including The Merchandise Mart and Wrigley Building here in Chicago. But I want to be clear. If more building owners and managers across Illinois want to host similar events, the state of Illinois is here to help. With a critical mass of people who need to be vaccinated, we will get you the staff, the supplies, and the vaccine to make it happen.
This is about making it as easy as possible for those who have not yet gotten vaccinated to do so. Vaccines are not only incredibly effective and protective for the person who gets them, but just as importantly, vaccines also make the whole community safer. Fewer unvaccinated people means there’s less room for new, more dangerous variants of COVID-19 to take shape and spread in your community.
That’s why, in the addition to the business program we’re talking about today, weeks ago, IDPH launched a similar program for community organizations to provide vaccinations. To date, we’ve done clinics for 120 groups on location across Illinois, with another 120 already scheduled in the weeks ahead. Any group, whether a religious institution, a neighborhood organization, or a non-profit, can sign up to host a vaccination clinic at zero cost to them.
If you sign up and gather the people you want to get vaccinated, Illinois will provide the resources and staff. You can learn more at dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vacation– sorry, /vaccinationclinics. We’d like vacation clinics, but we’re going to go with vaccination clinics.
Finally, if you want to get others vaccinated and help get others vaccinated, start in your own family and your circle of friends. Talk to them about why you got vaccinated, and then help them do the same. We’ll get through this the same way we have from the very beginning, helping each other and working together. So thank you. And with that, I’d like to turn it over to the mayor of the greatest global city, Lori Lightfoot.
LORI LIGHTFOOT: Thank you, governor. Good morning, everyone. I want to thank the governor, once again, for his incredible leadership throughout this pandemic, and Dr. Ezike of the Illinois Department of Public Health, who have been tremendous partners to the city of Chicago.
Let me also recognize BOMA Chicago executive director Farzin Parang; BOMA suburban Chicago executive director Michael Mulcrone; our friend and partner, SEIU Local 1 president Tom Balanoff; and you’ll hear from one of those essential workers, SEIU local member [INAUDIBLE], and also from Walgreens pharmacist Nancy Salman.
The governor, I think, really set the tone for this. This is about making sure that we are opening up opportunities for businesses, for employees, to come back to work. And a hello, by the way, to all of you up there.
It’s an understatement to say that our city was in a very different place just one year ago. The key– one of the keys that has turned around our fears into hopes is the availability of this lifesaving vaccine. We’ve come a long way since those early, dark days of the pandemic a year ago. And now armed with a vaccine that is safe, free– let me underscore that, free– and widely available, we have what we need to take the progress that we’ve made even further.
But truly, it depends upon each and every one of us stepping up and doing our part. That’s why we’re here today, to encourage building owners and businesses to get their tenants and staff vaccinated. When the pandemic hit, many employers were able to shift some, if not all, of their operations online, allowing some employees to be able to work from home, thus significantly reducing their chances of catching or spreading this deadly disease in most workplace environments and allowing some businesses to continue some form of normality, even during this difficult time.
And now that we have a vaccine that is proven to be safe and effective, more and more employers are beginning to plan out, or have already begun to welcome employees back into the office. And as government, health care, business, and labor leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure that this transition is as smooth and safe as possible.
In-building vaccination sites provide an effective solution to this challenge, because they will allow us to literally meet tenants and staff and employees where they are, or where they will be in the future, and provide them with a convenient place to get vaccinated. These sites that you heard will be here in Chicago, as well as out in the suburbs and other parts of the state.
And I’m thrilled to report that, for many months now, we have been working with– to educate employers and employees about the safety of the vaccine. And we’ve held a number of vaccination events at various businesses and other locations in the Chicago area, as well as with faith community not-for-profits. And this new initiative that the governor and I are announcing today just takes that work and extends it all the further.
One of the questions that we have is, how do we get the vaccine? As the governor has indicated, for the first time since we started vaccinating folks in December, we have vaccine that is available in all parts of the city without having to wait. You can walk up now to many places. But we still encourage you to go online and get an appointment. But whatever it takes, do not hesitate to get this lifesaving vaccine.
So as part of this initiative, beginning next Monday, May 17, tenants, staff, and even walk-ins can get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine from 3:00 to 5:00 PM at Merchandise Mart, that’s 311 South Wacker, and the Wrigley Building, with other sites at 115 South LaSalle Street, 540 West Madison, 401 North Michigan, and 150 North Riverside Plaza in the opening days. And in addition, if the demand from this first wave is high enough and other businesses want to jump into this initiative, we will be more than willing to open up further sites in the week of May 24.
This in-building vaccination site initiative isn’t exclusive to buildings like the ones that I have listed. As the governor intimated, if you are a property owner, a community organization, a not-for-profit, church, or some other kind of building where people congregate, we are more than willing to partner with you to put on vaccination clinics for free as you welcome people back under your roof.
We need all of you to take part in our mission to fully vaccinate our residents, reopen our city, and our state, and finally put this pandemic in the rearview mirror. I’ve said multiple times over these last few weeks, I’m excited about the prospect of what this summer will bring. I believe that it’ll look more like the summer of 2019 than the summer of 2020. But a lot of that, and the pace of it, depends upon how many more people we can get vaccinated. So taking advantage of these opportunities is critically important.
And let me also just say this. I want to give a shout out to those folks that we euphemistically call “essential workers,” people that have been coming downtown and to neighborhoods to their jobs every single day without fail throughout this pandemic. They are the unsung heroes of this story about the pandemic. They are the people who have been putting themselves on the line every single day to make sure that our city kept functioning.
And for them, we’ve done a lot of things to make sure that they are protected. We’ve made sure that you can get tested without any reprisals. We’ve made sure, through ordinance, that if you are sick, you can stay home. And more recently, we’ve made sure that you can go and get your vaccine without being retaliated against by your employer.
So employers out there, we applaud you, who have stepped up to do the right thing to protect your employers– your employees. But there’s more work that needs to be done. Welcome your employees back, but welcome them back with a vaccine that you provide in your workplace so that they know they can get that vaccine in a place of safety, and they can come back to work comfortably.