By SCOTT JACKSON
During a visit Boston’s Hynes Convention on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said there is hope on the horizon as more and more Americans get their COVID-19 vaccinations, but said it was important to keep taking steps to stop the spread of the virus.
Walensky toured the Hynes Convention Tuesday afternoon, along with Gov. Charlie Baker FEMA Administrator Robert Fenton, and other state and federal officials. FEMA will be using the Hynes Convention Center as a vaccination site over the next eight weeks and will be able give up to 6,000 shots per day – on top of the 1,000 shots a day that will come from the state-run mass vaccination center at the same location.
Walensky, who was previously chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases as Massachusetts General Hospital, said there is reason for hope across the country.
“We have so much reason for hope,” she told reporters following the tour. “We have 95 million Americans vaccinated with one dose of a vaccine and 53 million Americans who are fully vaccinated.”
She tempered that news about vaccination rates by noting case rates are on the rise, both nationwide and in Massachusetts.
“We are currently in this country at 61,000 new infections a day – a 13 percent increase from last week at this time,” Walensky said.
“So, while we have so much hope on the horizon, we are asking you to hang on just a little bit longer. Wear your masks, continue to distance and do the things that keep you safe.”
Walensky’s visit to Boston on Tuesday came one day after she warned that she was beginning to get a sense of “impending doom” during a White House COVID-19 briefing. On Tuesday, she said a new surge in cases remains preventable.
“When I said I had a feeling of impending doom, it is sort of this feeling I have had surge after surge serving on the front lines at Massachusetts General Hospital and recognizing that right now it is preventable,” Walensky said.
“We know what we need to do to stop the surge, and we would ask everybody to go ahead and do that.”
The CDC director said she had spoken to the nation’s governors earlier on Tuesday and encouraged them to issue mask mandates, like Massachusetts has done. She declined to comment on what the Bay State could have done differently amid the pandemic, but said she was encouraged about how many residents continue to wear masks and by the state’s vaccination rate.
“I’m not going to comment on individual states. What I will say I am really pleased to see that everybody here is masked, everybody outside is masked, and people are doing their part to try and contain the virus here in Massachusetts,” Walensky said.
“Massachusetts has a higher vaccination rate – one in five – than the national average and I am really encouraged.”
Baker said the opening of the FEMA vaccination site at the Hynes Convention Center would “significantly increase doses and access for some of the most disproportionally impacted communities here in the commonwealth.” The opening of the FEMA site, he added, would not hinder the state’s vaccination efforts at the same location.
The Hynes Convention Center is one of seven mass vaccination sites run by the state; others include the Reggie Lewis Center, which is also in Boston, and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. There are more than 200 vaccination sites open statewide.
The state is set to receive 382,000 total doses this week from the federal government, Baker said Tuesday, including 215,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 137,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 40,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The federal government is shipping an additional 252,000 doses directly to pharmacies and community health centers.
All Bay State residents over the age of 60 are currently eligible to get vaccinated, as are certain essential workers and those with two or more qualifying health conditions. Residents over the age of 55 and those with one qualifying health condition will become eligible for the vaccine on April 5 and all residents over the age of 16 will be eligible two weeks later on April 19.
All residents can preregister for an appointment at mass.gov/covidvaccine, regardless of when they are eligible to book an appointment. Preregistration is currently only available for the mass vaccination sites but will expand to additional locations in the coming weeks.
Appointments for other locations can also be booked online through the state website and the site has a complete list of occupations now eligible for the vaccine and the list of qualifying medical conditions. Residents without internet access can call 2-1-1 and follow the prompts to schedule an appointment.