Americans are heading back to Sears, but not to shop.
Public-health agencies and health-care organizations from Iowa to Florida are using some of the hundreds of closed Sears department stores to help with the nationwide effort to administer Covid-19 vaccines to millions of people.
Vast floor plans, sprawling parking lots and easy access to highways that attracted property developers and shoppers during the retailer’s heyday are drawing the attention of health officials. The stores are well-known destinations, and house enough space for workers and vaccine recipients to adhere to social-distancing guidelines.
“You know where the tools were kept and where the appliances were,” said Brian Hanft, director of public health in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, where on Monday officials agreed to set up a Covid-19 vaccine administration site inside an old Sears location. “It takes you back a little bit.”
Vacant retail spaces have emerged as anchors of an ad hoc public-health infrastructure in the U.S. since coronavirus began to spread. In some parts of the country, struggling or closed malls have been used since early last year as drive-through testing sites that are now being expanded to include vaccine administration.