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Former Sears stores turned into COVID-19 vaccine sites

Out with the lawn mowers, in with the needles.

Health officials have turned closed Sears stores into coronavirus vaccine centers as they work to inoculate the American public, a new report says.

Public health agencies and health-care groups are using the retailer’s empty stores to dole out shots in several states, including New York, New Jersey, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The sprawling former department stores make good vaccination sites because they’re big enough for patients and health workers to follow social-distancing guidelines inside, according to the paper. And their huge parking lots reportedly make it easy to give out drive-through jabs.

“With all the retail gone you’ve got this big open area. You’re able to actually bring people through,” John Turner, vice president of public relations for upstate New York’s Cayuga Health System, told the Journal. The organization reportedly leased a former Sears store near in a mall near Ithaca to give out vaccines.

A vacant Sears in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa gives health officials there enough space to administer vaccines and keep an eye on patients who receive them without worrying about the weather, according to the WSJ.

“When it’s 20-below out, I don’t want people who are 65-plus years old standing outside,” Brian Hanft, the county’s director of public health, told the paper. “We’ll be able to get a lot of people in that space standing in line.”

Sears used to be America’s biggest retailer, selling everything from home appliances to clothing. But the company filed for bankruptcy in 2018 after reportedly taking a hit from the rise of online shopping.

Sears’ store portfolio now likely includes fewer than 100 Sears and Kmart locations, down from almost 1,000 in early 2018, according to Forbes.

The empty Sears stores aren’t the only retail sites that have been used to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration recruited some New York City supermarkets in the spring to expand the Empire State’s testing program, as The Post reported in May.

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