FEMA officials eye Detroit's Ford Field for mass vaccination clinic

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit  Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are eyeing Ford Field for a mass vaccination site that could open next month in downtown Detroit, according to sources familiar with the plans.

Health officials toured the domed stadium Monday morning with representatives from the Michigan State Police, city of Detroit and the Lions.

Planners held a review of the facility, which was in the process of being converted into a Meijer clinic. The hope is to expand it.

Federal officials are looking at Detroit's Ford Field as a possible site for a mass COVID-19 vaccination.

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The Meijer clinic, which was set to launch next week, would help distribute 2,000 vaccines a day. 

With FEMA, officials anticipate they could open the mass vaccination site by mid-March and aid upwards of 8,000 people a day, sources tell The Detroit News.

FEMA officials did not confirm or deny the vaccination site was toured Monday but stated in an email to The News that it is working with federal agencies to coordinate with state, tribal and territorial authorities to assist and expedite vaccinations in the country in alignment with President Joseph Biden's plan.

"We are currently working with the state of Michigan to determine how the federal government can best support their vaccination distribution efforts," a FEMA spokesperson said. 

"With our state and local partners, FEMA is assessing locations and identifying resources for potential vaccination sites, as well as working to ensure any federally supported site meets the needs of the community it will serve."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office declined to comment, deferring to FEMA for details. City and Wayne County officials declined to comment.

FEMA opened its first COVID-19 mass vaccination sites last week, setting up in Los Angeles and Oakland as part of an effort by the Biden administration to get shots into arms more quickly and reach minority communities hit hard by the outbreak.

The White House also announced plans to open high-volume, federally run vaccination sites in Pennsylvania and Florida in the next two weeks. The sites are selected based on a framework developed to target vaccinations to those who are most vulnerable, officials say. 

Officials started with states that have the most people who need to get vaccinated, a White House spokesman said, noting it's one component of the strategy to expand vaccination access, in addition to mobile clinics, community health centers and pharmacies.

Detroit is the state's hardest-hit city by the coronavirus, with nearly 30,000 positive cases and 1,835 deaths from the virus. It also lies in the state's largest county, Wayne County.

Michigan has recorded 581,403 cases and attributed 15,362 deaths to the virus since it was first detected in March. 

About 14.6% of Michigan residents have one dose, and 7.3%, or 589,944 people, have completed both doses, according to the state.

As of Monday, 1.78 million doses have been administered of 2.3 million doses distributed to the state, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

"Michiganders age 65 and older can be vaccinated via the health systems, local health departments, federally qualified health centers and retail pharmacies like Meijer and Rite Aid," Sutfin said.

All residents are encouraged to visit local health department websites or hospitals for sign-ups or registration forms. Information can be found by clicking on the map here.

srahal@detroitnews.com, Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Staff WriterwMelissa Burke contributed.