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Mass. gears up to begin COVID-19 vaccinations for first responders

A police officer in Randolph directed cars through a testing site there last week.
A police officer in Randolph directed cars through a testing site there last week.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Officials are preparing to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to first responders across Massachusetts starting Monday, a strike back against the virus coming as the state’s health department reported 90 new deaths Saturday and more than 7,000 new cases.

The state’s Department of Public Health report Saturday brings the total number of people who have died due to COVID-19 to 12,798 and brings the number who have been infected above 407,000.

The disease continues to pose an increasingly dire threat: In Worcester, which is facing soaring coronavirus infections, officials Thursday decided to postpone a return to in-person classes for students.

The effort to vaccinate the state’s roughly 45,000 first responders include police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. Communities that have announced efforts to vaccinate first responders beginning Monday include Norwood and Worcester, officials have said.

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“Vaccinating the region’s first responders, who have been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic, is an important step in protecting our personnel and ensuring they are able to continue serving their communities,” Norwood Police Chief William Brooks said in a statement.

Worcester Senior Center will serve as a site to vaccinate first responders in that city, as well as those from Grafton, Holden, Millbury, Leicester, Shrewsbury, and West Boylston, according to Walter Bird Jr., a Worcester city spokesman.

Governor Charlie Baker announced Jan. 4 that first responders will be able to receive vaccinations starting this Monday. They can make an appointment at a first responder vaccination site, or get the shot at one of the mass vaccination sites being set up across the state in the coming weeks, the administration said in a statement.

“With respect to first responders, obviously I think we all would agree that vaccine distribution can’t happen fast enough,” Baker said during the press conference.

Those efforts come as the virus continues to derail efforts to resume everyday life.

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In Worcester, the public school district’s approximately 24,000 students will continue to attend classes remotely indefinitely due to rising COVID-19 infections in the city, Bird said Saturday. Worcester’s students have attended classes remotely this school year.

Dr. Michael Hirsh, the city’s medical director, told school officials in a recent e-mail that a post-Christmas and New Year’s surge had made health officials very reluctant to recommend a return to in-person classes.

Worcester is experiencing close to 200 new cases per day. A local Stop the Spread testing center also reported a positivity rate of 31 percent, Hirsh said.

“These numbers are quite daunting,” Hirsh said in the message.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.