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Snow Storm Does Not Stop Next Phase Of Vaccine Rollout In Massachusetts

The Eastfield Mall sign
Paul Tuthill

   Massachusetts moved today to phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout with people age 75 and older now eligible.

   Large scale vaccination sites – including the only one in western Massachusetts at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield – continued to operate through the snowstorm.

   While snow and wind was not a major hindrance, the vaccine rollout is still being hampered by a cumbersome online system for making appointments and a shortage of vaccines.

    "Supply is the issue," said Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health.

    Speaking at Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s weekly update on the city’s COVID response, Keroack repeated his calls for Massachusetts to pick up the pace of vaccinations in order to meet a goal to get vaccine into the arms of most of the state’s adults by the summer.

  "We need to do 41,000 first doses and 41,000 second doses every single  day and we are currently at about one-sixth of that rate," said Keroack.

   Keroack said he was also able to confirm the widely-reported problems with the state’s online vaccination appointment system.

  " To understand the situation I went on mass.gov as a 75-year old John Doe trying to get an appointment and I was zero for five," said Keroack.

   The city of Springfield is offering to help seniors book the hard-to-come-by appointments if they call the Raymond A. Jordan Senior Center or any of eight public library branches during business hours.

   The Baker administration has said a state hotline will be set up, but no details have been announced.

   "We did not want to wait," said Sarno. "We wanted to make sure we were there to help our Springfield seniors."

   Sarno said the city would like to set up neighborhood vaccination sites, if the city’s health department can get its hands on enough vaccine.

  "We can not run a mass operation," said Sarno. "People have asked us to, but we can't do that."

   While the vaccine scramble continues, officials Monday did report good news as a month-long trend of falling COVID-19 case counts continued.

   Springfieeeld had 911 confirmed cases last week. Early in January, Springfield recorded its highest single week total at 1,177 cases,

    Hospitalizations continue to fall. For the first time in over 10 weeks, the number of COVID patients in the Baystate system is below 120.   There are 13 people in critical care.

     The city of Springfield tallied 13 COVID-19 deaths last week.  That brings to 192 the number of city residents who have died during the pandemic.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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