Fenway Park named as next COVID-19 mass vaccination site

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts on Tuesday designated the site of its next COVID-19 mass vaccination site: Fenway Park.

Starting Feb. 1, the ballpark will begin administering 500 vaccines per day by appointment and will soon ramp up to providing 1,000 vaccines per day to eligible residents in Phase One priority groups under the state’s vaccination plan, state officials said.

CIC Health will operate the site, with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as the medical director.

The site is expected to stay open through the beginning of baseball season in early April. The state’s COVID-19 Command Center is also working with Boston officials to identify and set up a longer-term vaccine site in the city.

The decision follows the opening this week of Gillette Stadium as the state's first mass vaccination site. The site is expected to work up to administering over 1,000 vaccinations per day, and soon after, 5,000 vaccinations per day for those eligible under Phase One, including first responders.

Also Tuesday, state officials announced that Massachusetts will be among the first states to activate retail pharmacy vaccination at scale through select CVS Health and Walgreens, which will start inoculating eligible residents in Phase One priority groups by appointment.

Starting this week, at least 15 CVS Health and Walgreens, located in areas of the state where there is currently less access to convenient vaccine sites, will receive a total of 10,000 vaccines. The sites are located in Greenfield, Fall River, Salem, South Yarmouth, Pittsfield, Lee, Holden, Gardner, Hyannis, Mashpee, Somerset, Fairhaven, Haverhill, Saugus and Danvers.

Eligible residents in Phase One priority groups can view sites and book an appointment online.

Also this week, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has expanded their role to administer COVID-19 vaccines, providing vaccinations for all eligible groups in Phase One, officials said. This high capacity site will serve eligible groups in the Western Mass area.

Another 40 vaccination sites will be added next week with the state expecting to increase vaccine volume through retail pharmacies in the coming weeks.

Those eligible under Phase One include health care workers doing direct and COVID-facing care; long-term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities; first responders (EMS, fire, police); and congregate care settings (including prisons and shelters).

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths rose by 45 on Tuesday while the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 2,500.

The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 13,469 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to more than 454,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were more than 2,200 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 430 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 73. There were an estimated more than 93,000 current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 7,789.

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VACCINATIONS FOR MINORITY GROUPS

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is being urged by a coalition of community activists and medical professionals to give the state's Black and immigrant communities priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our Black and Latino neighbors have been the hardest hit by the pandemic, and we have failed to implement sufficient measures to protect them,” said a letter signed by more than 250 people and delivered to Baker on Monday, The Boston Globe reported. “We cannot afford to neglect our hotspot communities during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Health care workers, nursing home residents and first responders are among those who are currently eligible to be vaccinated under Phase 1 of the state's inoculation plan and the general public is not expected to have vaccine access until April.

The Republican governor has already pledged to set aside 20% of the state's vaccine supply for cities and towns with high infection rates, and acknowledged the pandemic's impact on those communities.

“Black and brown communities have borne the brunt of this virus,” Baker said Monday. “Our administration’s response to the pandemic has been constantly mindful of this reality."

But the letter's authors said the state has not identified a program for actually administering those vaccines to the hotspots.

The letter was provided by the Chelsea Collaborative, or La Colaborativa, a nonprofit that has been leading the humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the city across the river from Boston that was hit hard early during the pandemic. The letter was also signed by doctors from Mass General Brigham hospitals.

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BOSTON ST. PATRICK'S PARADE

Boston's storied St. Patrick's Day parade has been canceled for the second year in a row, organizers said Tuesday.

“Due to ongoing state restrictions limiting outdoor public events to 25 people, the 2021 South Boston St. Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day Parade has been canceled," organizers posted on Facebook. “We look forward to finally seeing you all again in 2022."

The parade, held every March and organized by the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, traces it roots back more than a century.

St. Patrick's Day parades in Holyoke and Worcester have already been canceled.

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NURSING HOME OUTBREAK

The National Guard has responded to a Berkshire County nursing home where there have been more than 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents and staff, authorities said.

The Springside Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center in Pittsfield in its latest report said 72 residents and 37 staff have tested positive for the disease to date, with 52 active cases among residents and 27 among staff, The Berkshire Eagle reported Monday.

The number of deaths was not disclosed.

Nancy Zappolo, a vice president of Springside owner BaneCare, said staff are working with members of the National Guard assigned to the facility by the state Department of Public Health. She said the facility is “following a clear plan to address the number of COVID cases at Springside.”