ELLSWORTH — Northern Light plans to open a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the former Family Dollar in the Ellsworth Shopping Center between Shaw’s and Renys. John Ronan, president of Northern Light Maine Coast and Blue Hill hospitals, made the announcement on March 15. April 1 is being targeted as the date for the first clinic.
“We think that space offers just a great opportunity for us to open a clinic,” Ronan said. Once opened, vaccinations will no longer be given at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital.
Northern Light first worked with City Council Chairman Dale Hamilton, Councilor Robert Miller and City Manager Glenn Moshier to identify places “for a mass vaccination site where we can do 500 to 700 vaccinations per day multiple days of the week,” Ronan said.
Work is in progress to transform the empty store into a clinic, including deep cleaning, painting and installing a second bathroom and the necessary technical infrastructure, said Northern Light Vice President of Operations Joe Gaetano.
“We’re hoping to be ready by the week of March 29,” Gaetano said. “We’d love to do a trial run of flow and safety.”
Northern Light has provided 8,500 vaccinations in the past six weeks at its Ellsworth and Blue Hill hospitals, Gaetano noted.
“Of the 55,000 [residents] in Hancock County, we know there were 10,000 to 13,000 over 70 and we got a good percentage of them already done,” he said. “And the number continues to grow mightily every day.”
As the vaccine supply increases and more residents become eligible to receive it, the options for where to go for a vaccination have also increased, with Walgreens, Walmart and Hannaford pharmacies all providing vaccinations in addition to hospitals and mass clinics at the Cross Insurance Center and around the state.
But many people are still struggling to register and receive vaccination appointments and some lack transportation. Ellsworth nonprofit Friends in Action has stepped in to help, providing assistance with both registering and rides.
“It was clear almost immediately that this way of doing the buddy system would help a lot of older people, not just because of the technology — that’s definitely a major issue — but also just making your way through the maze,” Director Jo Cooper said. “We have a bunch of volunteers who are making this their priority and are ready to go.”
Friends in Action can be reached at 664-6016. MaineCare, now also offering transportation through Down East Community Partners, can be reached through LogistiCare-Maine at 1-855-608-5176.