BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – For the last two years, the old Dillard’s department store in the Southern Park Mall has sat vacant. Soon, it will be where thousands of people can get COVID-19 vaccines.
About a week ago, the Ohio Department of Health contacted Mahoning County Public Health about hosting one of 15 mass vaccination sites across the state.
“They reached out to us and asked if we could host a regional mass vaccination site? Can we start to look around and see where we could support anywhere from 2,500 vaccinations a week to up to 5,000 if need be?” said Mahoning County Health Commissioner Ryan Tekac.
The Dillard’s building was it. At 94,000 thousand square feet on the first floor alone, it has plenty of space and parking.
“We took a tour of the facility, and it was in great shape,” Tekac said.
The Cafaro Corporation owns the building, and they are lending it to Mahoning County Public Health for free. All they have to pay are utilities for heating and cooling.
“There is nothing more important than getting those vaccinations in people’s arms, right now,” said Joe Bell, spokesperson for the Cafaro Company. “We are more than happy to do whatever we can to make that happen, and that is why we were offering the building, rent-free.”
Now, the health department has to move fast to transition from their current vaccination sites to the Dillard’s location, which the state wants ready to go by the first week of April.
“It’s going to take some time for us to transition from where are currently vaccinating to the planning process to the logistics getting started. It’s going to take a few weeks to get set up in there. Basically, what we are doing at a regional site, we are basically going to double or triple what we are doing currently,” Tekac said.
They’re looking at vaccinating two days a week on Fridays and Saturdays at the Dillard’s site and hoping at that point the vaccinations will be open to anyone who wants one.
During the transition, they’ll keep doing vaccinations at their current sites.
There is no exact date when the vaccination site will be ready to go. When that is announced, we will report the dates and times.
“We are pleased that the Mahoning County Board of Health is using the former Dillard’s space at Southern Park Mall as a vaccination site,” said Brian Gabbert, General Manager of Southern Park Mall. “We thank and appreciate our local healthcare workers for their tireless commitment to our community and for helping to ensure life-saving vaccines are made available in our area.”