By RANDY PIERCE
Plans to use the parking lot at St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights as a mass drive-through coronavirus vaccination site are still in place but have put on hold while the St. Clair County Health Department is using a location at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville for the purpose.
That was the response to a question about the mall property being used for vaccinations during a recent, daily Facebook briefing concerning the pandemic hosted by the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency.
It was announced last week that, with the help of Illinois National Guard personnel from Scott Air Force Base and local health care professionals, the fairgrounds site will be the largest mass vaccination location in the state, capable of administering up to 1,000 shots every day, Monday through Saturday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. by appointment only, provided that enough vaccine is available to do so.
Samantha Bierman, emergency response coordinator for the St. Clair County EMA, said the use of St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights as a vaccination site “is not out of the realm of possibility” at this point.
St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, who is also part of the team that presents the Facebook briefing updates at 3:30 p.m. each day, said there is not enough of the vaccine being provided yet to open up any more sites for administering it beyond the one at the county fairgrounds and others like local area hospitals and Walgreen’s stores, but he added that when more is available, utilizing St. Clair Square is likely.
The potential effectiveness of using St. Clair Square for this purpose was underscored by St. Clair County EMA Director Herb Simmons during the Wednesday, Jan. 27, Facebook briefing when he noted that the mall location is the number one testing site in Illinois regarding the numbers of people who have passed through it.
Still being used for coronavirus drive-through testing, the rear or northeast parking lot area of the mall has been the site of such activity since early December when a similar site at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center off Interstate 64 in East St. Louis was relocated to Fairview Heights.
Anyone who has not signed up can do as follows: (1) go to the county website at www.co.st-clair.il.us, (2) Click on where it says “Visit the COVID-19 Page” in black at the top of the page, (3) Click the second box you see that says “Vaccination Notification Sign-Up for Residents”, (4) Click the blue box that says “COVID-19 Vaccination Notification Sign Up”, (5) Follow the instructions that show next.
For anyone who does not have internet access to sign up for the notifications, the St. Clair County Health Department can be called at (618) 233-7703.
Monday, Feb. 1, marked the beginning of the vaccination process for people in what is referred to as category 1b, starting with those age 75 and over because they are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. The county announced Thursday of this week that the county will begin vaccinating people 65 years and older starting immediately.
The four hospitals in St. Clair County are also administering vaccinations during this time including Memorial in Belleville, Memorial East, St. Elizabeth’s and Touchette Regional, utilizing the same process for notification noted above.
Another vaccination site, operated by the St. Clair County Health Department, will be operating at 330 West Main St. in Belleville, the former location of a drive-through banking facility.
Kern stressed that the entire vaccination program at the county level is relying heavily on the allocation of sufficient supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna product being received here.
File photo: Motorists line up for COVID-19 testing at St. Clair Square.