Baker: State to launch call center to help schedule vaccines

BOSTON (AP) — The state is working to launch a call center to help individuals who are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine — including those 75 and older — but who may be having trouble navigating online to book an appointment, Gov, Charlie Baker said Thursday.
“We need some sort of a call center that people who can’t use the online system can access. We agree with that,” Baker said at a press conference in Plymouth. “That will be happening next week.”
The push for a call center comes as many older residents have expressed frustration at navigating the process to secure a slot.
Baker said he understands the frustration, but also urged patience, saying that the state can only administer as many vaccine shots as it receives from the federal government on a weekly basis. Those number of vaccines went from 80,000 this week to 100,000 for next week in new first doses.
People should keep checking back as new appointments open up. He said new slots at the state’s mass vaccinations sites will be posted each Thursday. The state currently has four mass vaccination sites open and hopes to boost that number to seven in the next 10 days or so.
On Wednesday, mass vaccination sites in Springfield and Danvers posted 10,000 appointments and were booked within hours, he said.
On Thursday, the same two sites posted another 15,000 appointments while two other mass vaccination sites — Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park — posted 20,000 new appointments, which are also fully booked, the Republican said.
Other smaller vaccinations sites like CVS Health, will post new appointments daily.
Baker urged residents to check online at the state’s website for more information and a map with links to the various vaccination sites and the availability of slots.
The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 43 on Thursday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 14,056 since the start of the pandemic.
The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 4,200 and the state’s confirmed caseload rose to more than 488,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were more than 1,800 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 440 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 70. There were an estimated nearly 78,000 people with 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 7,994.
There have been more than 496,000 vaccine doses administered and reported so far in Massachusetts. The total includes both first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
A rift has developed between trustees for the Massachusetts veterans care center where nearly 80 residents died after contracting the coronavirus and state officials over plans to replace the facility.
Holyoke Soldiers’ Home trustees at a meeting Wednesday pushed for a larger new facility, while state officials warned that any delays in the plans for a smaller one could sink the project, reported.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration supports a plan for a $300 million facility to replace the current home.
Trustees unanimously accepted the state’s plan for a new building — but called on the proposal to be amended to reflect a plan for an eight-floor facility with a greater number of beds.
The state’s plan calls for a seven-floor facility with a maximum of 192 beds. Trustees argued the plan should include up to 235 beds — the home’s pre-pandemic census. State officials did not immediately agree to the trustees’ proposal during the meeting.
State Secretary of Veterans Services Cheryl Poppe and Assistant Secretary for Administration and Finance Alda Rego told trustees that pushback over the size of the home could imperil the entire project, which faces an April 15 deadline to apply for federal funding. The project also will hinge on Baker signing a $300 million bond bill by Aug. 1.
Trustees Isaac Mass and Kevin Jourdain said they thought the state was advancing a substandard plan. Jourdain said the state should have sought input from the board about the number of beds.
Boston University has put a pause on all athletic activity for the remainder of January in response to a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 as students return to campus for the spring semester.
Women’s and men’s hockey and basketball games scheduled for the upcoming weekend have been postponed, the school announced Wednesday.
The pause applies to all team and individual training sessions.
“By and large, our student-athletes and staff have done a remarkable job in helping to stop the spread of this virus within their teams and our department,” athletic director Drew Marrochello said in a statement. “However, at this time, we feel that pausing all activities is a prudent decision that will better our chances of safely returning all of our teams to practice and competition in the coming weeks.”
This story has been corrected to show that Holyoke Soldiers’ Home trustees accepted, not rejected, the state’s plan for a new building.