The Crusader Newspaper Group

COVID numbers rising again as city suspends Loretto Hospital vaccine distribution

Multiple scandals have changed the process for how vaccines are given in Chicago resulting in both Loretto Hospital and Innovative Express Care losing access to the vaccine.

Block Club Chicago first reported vaccination events that Loretto Hospital officials organized at Trump Tower in downtown Chicago, and at the hospital president’s suburban church. On Monday, March 22, Block Club Chicago also reported that employees at a Gold Coast watch shop, which Loretto’s Chief Operating Officer frequents, were vaccinated as well. And, once again, on Wednesday, March 23, right before Crusader print deadline, Block Club Chicago reported that the COO, Dr. Anosh Ahmed, also arranged for “higher-ups” at the Gold Coast steakhouse Maple & Ash received vaccines that were part of the West Side hospital’s supply and announced his resignation later that night.

The hospital was also reported to have given vaccines to county judges and family members who were not yet eligible based on the city’s criteria.

The decision to suspend vaccinations at the site may leave many on the West Side with limited access to a vaccination site within a convenient commute, a decision that Dee Sutton, president of the union representing nurses at Loretto, is pleading with the city to adjust.

“There are other administrators there, other management there that can step in and take over vaccine distribution,” she said. “It’s a drastic measure to solve that problem.”

One administrator who was in a place to potentially take over was State Representative Lashawn Ford, who resigned from the board of the hospital citing the administration’s handling of the scandal.

“I am very disappointed with the recent developments at Loretto Hospital regarding its use of coronavirus vaccine entrusted to the hospital,” Ford said in a statement.

“As the State Representative for the hospital and as a resident in its service area, I will continue to fight for resources for Loretto Hospital, a safety-net hospital in the Austin community.”

Additionally, the city must find a new vaccine distributor for public school teachers after the provider, Innovative Express Care or IEC, knowingly misallocated 6,000 doses of vaccine, giving them to non-CPS personnel.

Unlike Loretto, however, IEC is protesting the suspension of vaccine doses, arguing that all doses that were given to non-CPS personnel were excess, keeping them within distribution guidelines.

“We always ensured that there were enough allocations for additional doses for all CPS employees. We received vaccine allocations each week, and our intention has always been to have a 100 percent utilization rate in order that every single dose we received was put into the arm of a qualified patient that week,” IEC wrote in a statement online.

“Clearly, we took this idealistic vision very seriously, which meant that doses intended for CPS employees actually went to seniors, frontline essential workers, and other qualified patients. We never departed from the commitment to CPS employees, nor other qualified individuals.”

Even with the multiple scandals Mayor Lightfoot still stands by the vaccine rollout as it has been and believes that oversight has been effective.

“I think we have very robust oversight,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday. “And what we’re talking about is medical professionals that have a license that has been vetted and approved by the state. We have a right to expect and, per our contract, that people abide by the rules and that they give us accurate reporting.”

The suspension of multiple vaccination locations comes as Dr. Allison Arwady announced that over the last two weeks COVID-19 cases have spiked 30 percent, fueled by a 23-percent increase in cases citywide in the last week, particularly among adults 40 and under.

The spike among younger Chicag- oans mirrors the numbers public health officials identified before cases severely spiked in March and October causing lockdowns across the nation.

“The biggest thing driving this is increases in cases in our young adults,” Arwady said. “I want to highlight that these sort of increases are just what we were seeing in October as we were starting to see the beginnings of what became our huge surge. It was really these same cases in young adults that started this.”

The city’s public health data also shows an increase in coronavirus clusters and outbreaks among young adults related to sports.

In the last week, city public health officials have investigated seven different sports-related cluster outbreaks ranging from four to 17 cases in high school, college and adult sports recreational leagues.

“We’ve had two football outbreaks, two basketball outbreaks, a swimming outbreak, a hockey outbreak, a softball outbreak,” Arwady said. “This is not about the sport. This is about the fact that people are getting their lives back, which we love.”

The connection from sports and COVID clusters comes following the mayor’s announcement of plans to reopen Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field to fans beginning on each team’s respective Opening Day in April as part of the city’s “Open Chicago” efforts.

“As a diehard sports fan myself, I’m personally excited to have Chicago take its first, cautious steps toward safely reopening our beloved baseball stadiums to fans this season,” Lightfoot said. “We’re able to do that thanks to the commitment of our city’s two great baseball franchises who continue to work in close partnership with Chicago’s public health officials to find solutions that are not only safe, but offer a path forward toward safely increasing stadium capacity as we move closer into our COVID-19 recovery.”

Story funded by the Facebook Journalism Project Community Network grant.

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