Vacant Kmart in McHenry to house COVID-19 vaccination site
A former Kmart store, vacant for 12 years, is transforming into a mass vaccination site, the result of a collaboration among the city of McHenry, the McHenry County Department of Health, and local businesses, officials said.
City leaders will officially turn the building at 1900 N. Richmond Road over to the local health department Friday afternoon, according to a news release.
County Administrator Pete Austin said McHenry did a "fantastic job" of preparing the building, in large part due to McHenry Police Chief John Birk.
"I know that they had to do some cleaning in there and painting and rewiring and getting internet," Austin told the Northwest Herald.
In a statement, County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, a Republican from Crystal Lake, lauded the city and its volunteers for "braving snow and freezing cold" to convert the building into a mass vaccination facility in 11 days.
Still, county officials cautioned the COVID-19 vaccine supply for first doses will be significantly reduced for the next several weeks, as Illinois prioritizes shipments for those due to receive their second shot. Weather is also delaying vaccine shipments to the state.
Many of the doses the health department receives from the state are shared with community health partners throughout the county, so that Phase 1a and 1b recipients, starting with first responders and those 65 and older, have "closer and faster access," according to the release. The remaining doses are used by the McHenry County Department of Health for its vaccination clinics.
As previously reported by the Northwest Herald, Buehler said at a county board of health meeting that he is asking the governor for more vaccines.
"The amount of vaccine that McHenry County has been receiving has been far short of what we need, but once supply comes closer to meeting the enormous demand, we'll be ready to ramp up, thanks to the hard work and generosity of the people of McHenry," Buehler said in a statement. "We understand how frustrated people are with the pace -- we hear you. We are ready to roll once we get a steadier and more reliable flow of vaccine."
Next week, the McHenry facility will start offering inoculations by appointment to people who have enrolled through the McHenry County Department of Health, McHenry County Department of Health spokeswoman Lindsey Salvatelli said.
Austin said the facility is considered a closed point of distribution, meaning it is by appointment only for a very targeted audience.
An enrollment form can be accessed online at http://bit.ly/MCDHCovidVaccine. Questions can be directed to the health department's COVID-19 Call Center at (815) 334-4045.
"The city of McHenry is truly appreciative of our community business partners who came together to make this mass vaccination site a reality," McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett said in a statement. "We are honored to partner with the Department of Health to assist them in their mission to vaccinate McHenry County."
BET Investments, Jett said, is providing the 87,000-square-foot building, and other local partners have made "gracious" donations.
"We couldn't have put this plan together without them," Jett said.
Local donors include Sherwin Williams, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4600, Home Depot, Prairieland Disposal, Jett's Heating & Air, Eby Graphics, and ZFRM Law.
"We owe a big thank you to the city of McHenry for their contributions in standing up a permanent vaccination site for the county," Public Health Administrator Melissa Adamson said. "This location will serve as the primary vaccination site and the size of this facility will allow us to grow our vaccination efforts as more vaccine comes online. We are extremely fortunate to be a part of a team working toward a common goal to meet the needs of our residents."
While McHenry did get donations from local businesses, Austin said city administrator Derek Morefield was told to keep track of every penny spent on the facility so he can send it to the county. The county will seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
There's no limit to the amount the county can be reimbursed, Austin said.
"The Biden administration has made it very plain that they're going to cover 100% of costs associated with vaccinations," he added.
The county health department has other vaccination sites at the Algonquin public works facility and McHenry County Fairgrounds.
These will be used when the weather gets better, Salvatelli said.
To receive a vaccine, residents in Phase 1a and 1b can reach out to regional hospital systems, clinics, and other community partners to schedule an appointment. There are also state and federal partnerships with retail pharmacies in McHenry County where people can enroll to be vaccinated. Those interested in getting a vaccine can also go to https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/vaccination-location to find more locations.