New Bedford Mayor: State Ignores SE Mass in COVID-19 Vaccine Plan
The Baker administration has unveiled a map identifying locations where Massachusetts residents may roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine -- and not one of them is located anywhere near Fall River, New Bedford, or Cape Cod.
"It's outrageous," New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell told WBSM's Barry Richard today. "I'm at a loss. When I first saw the map, I thought they must have made some sort of mistake. But there's no mistake. How on earth do you justify that decision?"
Mitchell said New Bedford and Fall River are cash-strapped cities with a high rates of COVID-19. Anyone from the low-income cities who wants to get the shot will have to travel to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, a site that's about a 50-minute drive from the Whaling City.
The plan for vaccination sites was apparently developed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health under the authority of Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders.
Mitchell today said he has not spoken with Sudders, but has been texting back and forth with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. "At least she gets it," Mitchell said. He expressed hope that a solution can be devised.
Mitchell this morning took to Twitter to publicly express his dismay and frustration with the situation. "To those state officials who wonder why folks in SE Mass complain about being an afterthought on Beacon Hill, behold the state's map of vaccination sites," Mitchell wrote, while tagging Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan.
Mitchell said first responders, people in nursing homes and congregate care settings, and those in low-income senior housing have been getting their vaccines through other routes. The current matter concerns the vaccination desert for all other residents, the mayor said.
Mitchell admitted that it's rare for him to publicly air his disagreements with the administration of Governor Charlie Baker. "You've got to pick your battles," he said. "And often you work things out privately." But he said the latest news about the region's vaccination desert "pushed him over the edge."
Mitchell said the city may try to set up its own vaccination site if nothing else works.
Update: Mitchell on Friday said he has an assurance from Polito that a mass vaccination site will be established in Southeastern Massachusetts: