Worcester will serve as 'super site' to vaccinate first responders from area communities
Following concerns about a lack of planning to distribute vaccines, the Mass. city plans to lead a regional effort to vaccinate police, fire and EMS personnel
Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.
WORCESTER, Mass. — With COVID-19 numbers rising, city officials are asking people to order takeout food, watch a good movie or watch the ball drop on TV or online Thursday night, New Year's Eve.
The message at Wednesday's press conference at City Hall with Mayor Joseph M. Petty, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. and City Medical Director Dr. Michael Hirsh was the same one they've repeated at all of the nearly 100 press conferences they've held since the start of the pandemic — stay home.
With thousands of workers in the UMass and St. Vincent health care systems already having been vaccinated with the first round of COVID-19 vaccine, Petty said better days are in sight.
But, he warned, a surge caused by holiday get togethers is underway and he asked residents to avoid close contact and skip New Year's Eve parties to try to avoid a bigger surge.
There are no public events planned in Worcester to ring in the new year, officials said.
With the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts concerned about a lack of planning to distribute vaccines to its members and other first responders, there was word Wednesday that the city will be leading a regional effort to vaccinate public safety personnel.
Augustus, who returned to the dais for the first time in three weeks after recovering from COVID-19 and a related case of pneumonia, said, "The city will be taking the lead as a regional dispensing super-site to vaccinate our first responders."
While the state has asked local health departments to manage vaccine distribution for police, fire and emergency medical services workers, the PFFM said not all cities and towns have solid plans in place.
Augustus said the city is poised to vaccinate first responders in Worcester police, firefighters and ambulance personnel from Worcester EMS, as well as private ambulance companies which also serve the city.
"We will also take the lead to do the police and fire for the towns of Shrewsbury, Millbury, Leicester, Holden, Grafton and West Boylston," Augustus said, adding that those towns are part of the Regional Health Alliance.
An interdepartmental team composed of the city's Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Emergency Management and the city manager's office will work as an emergency dispensing advisory group to coordinate the effort, Augustus said.
Augustus said that while there are "a lot of moving parts" to setting up the site, he believes the city is "well positions and trained to handle this task" including storage of vaccines, coordinating volunteers, data entry and scheduling.
"I'm confident that we're prepared to do this," he said.
He expects the super site vaccinations to begin during the week of Jan. 11.
(c)2020 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.