CHICAGO (CBS) -- With more businesses starting to bring employees back to their offices, city and state officials are teaming up with building managers to begin offering vaccines at workplaces in downtown Chicago and other business districts in Illinois.
"Starting this week, if you work downtown in Chicago, and in other cities across Illinois, work is quite literally where the vaccines will be," Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday morning.
Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the Illinois Department of Public Health and Chicago Department of Public Health are teaming up with Walgreens, building owners, and labor unions to provide vaccines at major commercial offices, including the Merchandise Mart, 311 S. Wacker Dr., and the Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago.
"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," Pritzker said.
Lightfoot said, starting next Monday, May 17, tenants, staff, and the general public can get the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays at the Merchandise Mart and the Wrigley Building.
"This is about making sure that we are opening up opportunities for businesses, for employees to come back to work," Lightfoot said.
Similar vaccination clinics also will soon be coming to buildings at 115 S. LaSalle St., 540 W. Madison St., 401 N. Michigan Av., and 150 N. Riverside Plaza, according to the mayor.
"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," Lightfoot said.
The governor's office said similar vaccine programs will be available at two commercial buildings in Rockford (308 W. State St. and 1111 S. Alpine Rd.) and another in Schaumburg (1061 American Lane) starting in mid-May.
The governor said any building owner can register with the state to set up vaccination clinics at their workplaces.
"We will get you the staff, supplies and the vaccine to make it happen," Pritzker said.
Lightfoot said, with more businesses bringing people back to the office, "It is our responsibility to make sure that this transition is as smooth and safe as possible, and 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."
The new workplace vaccination program comes as Illinois prepares to enter the "Bridge Phase" of its reopening plan on Friday, allowing for greater capacity limits at businesses, museums, zoos, and spectator events. If key COVID-19 metrics remain stable after moving into the Bridge Phase, the state could fully reopen, without any capacity limits, by June 11.
Lightfoot said she's hopeful the city also can fully reopen by then. Previously, she had said she expected the city to fully reopen by July 4.
"We're headed in the right direction, but everything about this pandemic has to have an asterisk of caution, because of the twists and turns; and as the governor and [Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi] Ezike said, we've got to get people vaccinated so that we can get ahead of these variants," she said.
Meantime, the mayor said her administration expects to start bringing city employees back to City Hall soon.
"We are in the final stages of kind of rolling out a plan to return people on a staggered shift. We're going to be revising our telework program, so that will be in place relatively soon," she said.
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