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State will shut down mass vaccination sites in coming weeks

Meanwhile, a new report calls for keeping telehealth options and other pandemic measures.

Boston's Jerome Sampson helped his mother Lorraine Peters, 80, get the vaccine shot from RN Lisa Cronin at Gillette Stadium in February. David L Ryan/Globe Staff


BOSTON (AP) — The state announced Thursday that the mass vaccination sites that were so critical earlier in the pandemic will be shutting down over the next several weeks as the fight against COVID-19 in Massachusetts adopts a more targeted strategy.

With nearly 3.7 million residents fully vaccinated and over 4.3 million people having received at least a first dose, the Baker administration said it’s now focused on ramping up community-based vaccine efforts to reach remaining unvaccinated populations.

All mass vaccination vendors will continue to work closely with state health officials as they wind down operations, administration officials said Thursday.

Gillette Stadium, the Hynes Convention Center, the Reggie Lewis Center, Natick Mall, and the Doubletree in Danvers will finish operations by the end of June.

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The Eastfield Mall in Springfield and the former Circuit City in Dartmouth will remain open into July. CIC Health and Curative will continue to support community mobile sites, including on-site employer and school clinics.

The mass vaccination sites have jointly administered over 1.7 million doses and played an instrumental role in getting residents vaccinated.

There are over 900 vaccinations locations still available in every region of Massachusetts. The COVID-19 vaccine is free, and individuals do not need insurance or an ID to get the vaccine.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by about 240 Thursday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by seven.

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The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,530 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 661,600.

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

There were about 200 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 70 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 58. There were an estimated 5,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

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IMMUNIZATIONS

More than 7.9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts as of Thursday.

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That includes more than 4.2 million first doses and more than 3.4 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

There have been more than 253,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.

Nearly 3.7 million people have been fully immunized.

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PERMANENT CHANGES FAVORED

Changes to Massachusetts’ health care rules made in response to the COVID-19 crisis should be allowed to remain in place even after the pandemic state of emergency is lifted later this month, according to a new report.

For example, the state Department of Public Health should continue to allow Massachusetts residents to access telehealth from providers outside the state, according to the Pioneer Institute report.

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Widespread access to telehealth allows patients to see more diverse doctors from different areas of the country, cuts down on barriers to care such as transportation, and allows providers to focus more attention on complex, in-person appointments, report author Joshua Archambault told the Boston Herald.

“It should be a win-win. They can see more patients in an hour by telemedicine, and when patients do come in they can focus on the most complicated cases,” Archambault said.

The state should also allow all staff at hospitals and facilities licensed or operated by the state to work at any other facility.

“This commonsense flexibility should remain in place permanently to ensure better patient access, and also to make sure we are ready for the next pandemic, when rotating staff may be necessary,” Archambault wrote.

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