People eat in Miki’s Park in River North last month. Indoor capacity is expanding to the lesser of 50% or 100 people per room at establishments across the city and suburbs. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mondays in May will be designated “restaurant days” at Cook County’s six suburban mass vaccination sites, but anyone 16 or older can show up for a shot, with or without an appointment.

Public health officials in Cook County are serving up COVID-19 vaccines to bar and restaurant workers as the suburbs follow in lockstep with Chicago’s latest round of eased coronavirus restrictions.

Mondays in May will be designated “restaurant days” at the county’s six suburban mass vaccination sites, Cook County Board Presidents Toni Preckwinkle announced Thursday.

Anyone can sign up for an appointment or walk up to the six sites in Tinley Park, Matteson, River Grove, South Holland, Des Plaines or Forest Park. But officials want to vaccinate as many of the “essential heroes” in the hospitality industry as possible with indoor capacity expanding to the lesser of 50% or 100 people per room.

“Restaurant staff people worked tirelessly, even as they were asked to pivot to new roles to meet new demands, even as hours were cut, doors were closed, and their own life livelihoods were in jeopardy,” Preckwinkle said. “Now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and people are returning toward cafes and restaurants for a sense of normal normalcy and camaraderie that we all have craved.”

An estimated 20% of restaurants statewide won’t survive the pandemic, according to Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia, shuttering about 5,000 businesses and leaving more than 100,000 out of work.

“We were the first industry to be shut down, and probably will be one of the last industries to truly reopen and recover. Vaccinations are absolutely crucial to help drive our COVID numbers back down and get our guests back in restaurants,” Toia said.

The restaurant shot push comes as public health officials face their latest challenge in the pandemic with demand for vaccine slowing across Illinois.

“Most individuals who absolutely knew ahead that they wanted the shot have had the chance to get one,” Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha said. “Now we have to change hearts and minds to encourage individuals who have not yet made the decision to get vaccinated.”

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file
Israel Rocha Jr., CEO of Cook County Health, joins Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and others to address the details of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan last December.

Almost a third of all Illinois residents are fully vaccinated, and about half have gotten at least one dose, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, which reported 107,689 more shots went into arms statewide on Wednesday.

But the state is now averaging just 97,434 shots administered per day over the past week — the first time that rate has fallen below 100,000 in a month, and a 27% decrease compared to the all-time high of almost 133,000 the state reported two and a half weeks ago.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

“This will be an uphill climb, but we are committed to doing everything we can to get people vaccinated and remove barriers to access,” Rocha said.

As part of that effort, city officials announced the Chicago State University mass vaccination site is now offering the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine in its drive-thru facility, no appointments required. Pfizer shots are also available.

Still, “we’re not out of this yet,” Preckwinkle warned.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle receives a vaccine shot at the vaccination site in the Tinley Park Convention Center in January.

The state reported 3,394 new cases of the disease Thursday, the most logged in a single day in about two weeks. They were diagnosed among 89,057 tests, raising Illinois average positivity rate to 3.5%. That figure is still down about 20% overall since April 12.

Officials also reported the disease killed 28 more residents, including a Cook County man in his 30s.

More than 1.3 million people have tested positive statewide over the last 13 months, and 21,927 of them have died.

For help finding a vaccination appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.

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