When a group of surgeons first came together to help LakeCounty deal with the COVID-19 crisis, they offered rapid testing.
That evolved into COVID vaccination clinics, then mobile vaccination sites.
Next up is a door-to-door campaign for those without themeans or ability to go to clinics, said Dr. Jeffrey Weinzweig, owner of Doctors Test Centers at www.doctorstestcenters.com. A description on the group’s website emphasizes it is not a corporation, but “a group of dedicated medical providers committed to contributing to our community by providing care solutions in difficult environments.”
“Literally, our team with mobile units will be going to different areas in Lake County and approaching people at their homes,” Weinzweig said. “Our goal is to get 80 percent-plus of Lake County vaccinated in the next couple months…
“Our ultimate goal is to put ourselves out of business. We’ve come together to help in every way we can in an attempt to help normalize the situation.”
A licensed physician in both Illinois and Florida, Weinzweig is a board-certified plastic surgeon with a medical office in Highland Park.
It might not seem like the most natural fit for a plastic surgeon to be embedded in the COVID-19 battle, but Weinzweig saw a need and responded. When the pandemic began, he and his colleagues already were using their expertise to manage and prevent COVID in their operating rooms.
Why not take on COVID elsewhere?
“COVID is a medical problem and we, the doctors, have stepped up and want to step in to help our community find medically-based, practical solutions,” the website states.
The efforts began in Lake County with partnerships between Doctors Test Centers, the Lake County Health Department and Catholic Charities. Clinics were hosted at the Catholic Charities’ Round Lake facility and the Patty Turner Center in Deerfield, as well as Loyola University Schreiber Center and a variety of sites, from factories to schools to businesses.
“We are pivoting to mobile clinics as demand for mass vaccination drops and we need to meet people where they are at, so the vaccination process is convenient and accessible,” Weinzweig said.
Those interested in scheduling appointments for the free vaccines — both first and second doses — can sign up on the website at www.doctorstestcenters.com or through Lake County’s AllVax. Doctors Test Centers pulls from the AllVax list and sends out emails for scheduling.
Doctors Test Centers continues to offer COVID testing at Chicago airports with appointments available on its website.
All of the efforts grew out of simply wanting to help, Weinzweig said.
“Many of the skills in the OR made it so we could contribute in the pandemic,” he said. “For example, we are used to wearing N-95 masks and infection control measures. We felt able to reallocate staff and already had a training process for these skills in place.”
With about 60 to 80 employees now working in multiples tates, Doctors Test Centers has created a professional force of vaccination staff, said Weinzweig, who is joined by Ashley Kalus and Nicholas Toscano in leading the efforts.
“Not only has our organization provided services, but between our vaccination services and testing programs we have brought back individuals to work who were laid off due to COVID,” he said.
He predicts realistically to complete his mission by next summer.
“It really has been a huge endeavor on our part and across the country to do this,” he said. “I think we are seeing it turn a corner, and I think we’re going to get the jump on this in the next couple months.
“We are so proud of the progress that has been made in Lake County. There is still work to do, but the Health Department, nonprofits, and municipalities have really been so supportive in providing the foundation needed to execute a successful mass vaccination effort. But it is also the broader community, in using the services, that deserves recognition.”