Illinois State Fairgrounds vaccination site could be closed by county
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health is considering shutting down the mass COVID-19 vaccination site in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds because of sluggish demand.
Gail O’Neill, SCDPH’s director, said that with fewer shots being administered, contracts with the Illinois National Guard and nurses ending and more sites providing the vaccine, the site may no longer be needed to help vaccinate Sangamon County.
“We’ve been looking at how long this is an efficient use of everybody’s time and money,” O’Neill said. “We’ve been seeing declining interest in the vaccine. The Guard has been moving some people because we’re not as busy as we once were. We’ve reduced the number of people out there and we’re still able to provide very quick service.”
No timetable has been set for the closure of the site, but O’Neill said that transitions are being made toward a new approach for the vaccine, one not centered around mass sites like the Orr Building, but on smaller efforts like the drive-thru site on South Grand Avenue, pharmacies and doctors’ offices.
“The people that really wanted (to get) vaccinated have been vaccinated,” O’Neill said. “Those who still have questions or concerns are going to look to people to help them make that decision and we think that’s good, whether it’s at a doctor’s office or at places they know and have the opportunity to make that decision.”
Vaccination will be an important factor in preventing any resurgence of the coronavirus as the state moves into Phase 5 of its reopening plan next Friday. Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday in Peoria that the state was on track to move toward the next phase, with cases and hospitalizations declining.
“As the numbers are moving down, my expectation is on June 11, as projected, we will move to phase 5 which is full reopening,” Pritzker said.
O’Neill said that the department is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming move to full reopening, saying that the opening of businesses and returning to work benefits the health of the community in its own way.
But she also is hoping that people won’t use the occasion to go overboard with their actions, endangering all of the progress that has been made during the vaccination campaign.
“All the things that we’ve been preaching still continue,” O’Neill said. “Phase 5 doesn’t mean go crazy. It means that we can go more places, cautiously, with the health guidance we’ve been offering. If we see a resurgence in numbers, I’m confident that our medical community can gear up and deal with what happens.”
SCDPH is willing to do whatever it can to prevent a surge once Phase 5 begins, with the department going as far as having vaccination clinics at small businesses or summer parties with family and friends. Those interested in doing so can reach out through the department’s COVID-19 hotline at (217) 321-2606.
“If there’s 15 (or more) people that would like to be vaccinated, we would be glad to come to any of those,” O’Neill said.
Declining demand is leading to some of the lowest statewide vaccination numbers since the winter, with just 36,372 new doses being administered Thursday. The seven-day average now sits at 37,328 shots per day, the lowest since Jan. 27.
Overall, the state has administered 11,374,677 doses of the vaccine, with 5,317,858 people being fully vaccinated — representing 41.74% of the population.
Sangamon County reported 528 new vaccinations Thursday, with the seven-day average continuing to tick down to 385 shots per day. Overall, the county has provided 177,655 shots, with 85,733 people having been fully vaccinated representing 43.89% of the population, third highest in the state behind DuPage County (49.43%) and suburban Cook County (44.74%).
Caseloads continue to remain low statewide, as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 674 new cases and 24 new deaths. The positivity rate remains low at 1.7%, with the rate as a percentage of total tests sitting at 1.5%.
Sangamon County reported three new positive cases Thursday with no additional deaths. Menard County reported no new positive cases or deaths.