CHICAGO (CBS)– Vice President Kamala Harris was in Chicago Tuesday.

It was her first visit since becoming elected, and her focus was on COVID-19 vaccine equity.

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Just before 1:00, the Vice President was greeted by Governor JB Pritzker alive at Midway Airport, where Vice President Harris arrived from Los Angeles. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was there as well.

Harris is in town to visit a COVID-19 vaccine site the city is set up with the Chicago Federation of Labor that site opened last week. This is the first in the nation to be set up by union members for union members.“

“We are honored to welcome Vice President Kamala Harris to the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by the labor movement specifically for union members,” said CFL President Bob Reiter. “Thank you to Biden-Harris Administration for standing with union workers as we all work to overcome this devastating pandemic, and thank you to Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health for their partnership in this critical vaccination effort.

After 1:30 p.m., Harris was met by Illinois U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth as well as U.S. Representative Danny Davis. Durbin praised Harris and the Biden administration for its work in the Build Back Better project, focusing on infrastructure improvements

“The next plan is to build America better, and to build it back better, And to do that by investing in America again, not just in roads and highways, bridges and railroads and airports,” Durbin said. “We can make it safer for the people in Chicago and across Illinois to make sure the buildings are more energy efficient, so that we don’t waste money and keeping our buildings cool and warm.”

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was looking forward to meeting with Harris.

On Tuesday, Lightfoot marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of a response team to focus on the issues facing Black and Brown communities, which have been hard hit by the virus and are being vaccinated at a slower rate.

Lightfoot on Tuesday said early on in the pandemic, Black residents were dying of COVID-19 at seven times the rate of other races. That led to the creation of the response team.

“We spent a lot of time myth busting at the start,” said Lightfoot.

In the mayor’s remarks introducing Vice President Harris, she called the Biden administration “a breath of fresh air.”

“You have given us hope. You inspire us and you lead us at a time when we need real leadership in the White House,”  Lightfoot said, who also encouraged people who haven’t been vaccinated yet to get their shots.

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Harris spoke to the room of spaced-out audience members just before 2:00. In her opening remarks, she talked about the urgency to get people vaccinated.

“It’s so good to be in the house of labor,” Harris said, calling Representative Davis one of the deans of Congress. Harris thanked Lightfoot for inviting her to Chicago.

“She reached out and said you gotta come and see what labor, what folks are doing in my community, it can be a model for the nation,” Harris said of Lightfoot.

“We are not alone. You are not alone. We are all in this together,” Harris said. “On behalf of the President, of myself, we’re getting more vaccines out now. Getting more vaccines out the door. Please help your friends and your family.”

Harris’ visit comes on the same day that it was announced the state will get an additional $124 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further expand COVID-19 vaccination efforts including more than $90 million for Illinois and $33 million for the city of Chicago.

Vice President Harris added that people will mostly likely get vaccine guidance from friends and family more than they would celebrities.

“If you talk with them and talk about your experience, you will convince people. So I’m here to ask you to do that. I’m here to ask you to do it. Because you know we can have celebrities and so-called famous people doing it, but the people who carry the most weight are our peers and the people we respect.”

 

She added “I came to to say thank you. Because this site is a model for the rest of the country, a safe place to come where the dignity of work is recognized.”

After the Vice President’s visit to the mass vaccination site, Senator Durbin didn’t want to comment on the Biden administration’s statement on having all Americans eligible for the COVID vaccine beginning in May.

“I don’t want to second guess any decision decision, our state decision on timing,” Durbin said. “Generally speaking, people across the nation, people 16 and older are now all eligible. So the circumstances locally may be different. I don’t want to try to second guess those at the national basis for making better progress.”

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Megan Hickey