SANFORD — The mass COVID-19 vaccination site at a vacant storefront in the Center for Shopping in Sanford is poised to open the latter part of next week. 

That was the word Monday from York County Emergency Management Agency Director Art Cleaves. 

“(It is) looking like end of next week, as we continue to pull together the furniture and ensure all the utilities are in order, as well as making sure the registration system is fully functional,” said Cleaves in an email. 

Appointments will be required for vaccines.

York County commissioners entered into a lease agreement for the long-vacant space on Feb. 3. Cleaves was to update commissioners at their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17,  after the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier and Kennebunk Post print deadlines. 

The county had initially hoped to open the center mid-month, but had cautioned during the lease approval vote that there was a lot of work needed to get the site ready.

Maine is currently in Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout. According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control, that means administering vaccines to those 70 and older now,  and later, to those 65 and older and those with high risk medical conditions, followed by as-yet undefined critical front line workers. Phase 1C includes other frontline workers, and phase 2, people 16 to 64 not eligible in earlier phases. Phase 1A included long term care residents and staff, health care personnel needed to provide critical health services, first responders and critical COVID-19 response personnel.

The Center for Shopping is at 1364 Main St. in Sanford, close to the roundabout and the intersection of Routes 4 and 109. It is considered geographically close to the center of the county. 

Cleaves has estimated it will take about 50 people daily to operate the center. Southern Maine Health Care will provide staffing and other support, along with people from the Emergency Management Agency, and from the county’s municipalities.  

“This is very significant for York County,” said York County Manager Greg Zinser upon the lease approval vote. 

The move to open a large center in York County came at the behest of the Maine Centers for Disease Control, which approached  county government. 

Currently, there are a couple of sites in York County where COVID-19 vaccines are administered by York Hospital at a site opened aSt. Christopher’s Church in York a week ago, and at clinics operated by Southern Maine Health Care.  Some York County residents are also scheduled for immunizations at Scarborough Downs in Cumberland County, which opened a couple of weeks ago. The Walmarts in Biddeford and Sanford are also administering vaccines.

While the number of vaccinations to be given daily is dependent on vaccine supply, the Sanford space will have the capacity to administer the vaccine to as many as 1,000 people a day.

As of  Feb. 15, there had been 9,082 people in York County who tested positive for COVID-19, and 109 deaths since the pandemic began. The positivity rate is the highest in the state, at 440.4 per 10,000 population. York County’s population is estimated to be 207,000.

The monthly fee for the vaccination space is just under $30,000. Cleaves said the county will be reimbursed for those costs, plus other expenses like personnel and equipment, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

This story will be undated online as new information becomes available. The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier and Kennebunk Post may be viewed online by clicking on the Mainely Media Weeklies tab at the Portland Press Herald website, pressherald.com

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