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COVID-19 vaccinations ramping up this weekend at Mohegan Sun site

Mohegan — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz toured Mohegan Sun’s COVID-19 vaccination site Friday, pointing to the Mohegan Tribe’s collaboration with Yale New Haven Health and Lawrence + Memorial Hospital as a prime example of the kind of partnerships that are helping propel the rollout of the vaccines in Connecticut.

The tribe has committed about 20,000 square feet of meeting-room space in its Earth Expo & Convention Center, where YNHH and L+M staffers have been manning scores of vaccination stations since the site opened Feb. 19.

Before Friday, they’d administered some 2,000 vaccinations, a number they expect to more than double by the end of this weekend, L+M officials said. About 350 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were to be given Friday, with 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine scheduled Saturday and more than 1,000 Pfizer doses Sunday.

L+M administered its first J&J doses Friday at its mass vaccination site at Mitchell College in New London, where it has vaccinated 6,500 people, according to an L+M spokeswoman.

The YNHH system, which includes L+M and Westerly Hospital, has been getting 7,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 2,000 Moderna doses weekly and now expects to begin regularly receiving some J&J doses as well, said Sarah Kelly, a YNHH director of pharmacy operations. The system has been administering 95% of the doses it receives in the week it receives them and uses the rest the following week, she said.

"If you got 18,000 doses a week, could you handle it?” Bysiewicz asked.

“Yes, and we’d stay open until midnight if we had to,” answered Mary Ann Nash, L+M ’s administrative director of oncology services, food and nutrition and sleep medicine, one of many L+M staffers pitching in at the site.

Patrick Green, L+M’s president and chief executive officer, joined the tour, as did Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun’s president and general manager; and Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom, who reported he’d received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine the previous day at the senior center in Norwich after being offered an appointment that became available there. He’d been scheduled to get a shot in Hamden.

“Just luck,” he said.

Marge Lees, 59, of Somers, one of the hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents between the ages of 55 and 64 who became vaccine-eligible Monday, said she and her husband scheduled their Mohegan Sun appointments through YNHH’s website.

Joseph Crowley, 56, a Westerly resident who works in Connecticut — at Mohegan Sun — and was therefore eligible to receive the vaccine in Connecticut, had signed up for a later appointment but got a call Friday that a spot had opened up at the casino site.

He said most of his co-workers are “fairly young” and not yet eligible to be vaccinated but are eager to get a shot.

“They’re all interested in putting this behind us,” he said, referring to the pandemic.

“Chief Sturges would be proud of what the tribe is doing,” Stuart Miller, a 68-year-old Groton man who got vaccinated Friday, said, invoking the memory of the late Ralph Sturges, a revered Mohegan chief.

Bysiewicz, who has yet to receive a vaccination, said 96% of the deaths associated with COVID-19 in Connecticut have been among those 55 and older, the main reason for Gov. Ned Lamont’s adoption of an age-based approach to the vaccine rollout.

“And if you vaccinate those 55 and over, you will get 75% of those with comorbidities,” she said.

The governor’s office reported Friday that 830 new COVID-19 cases had been counted in Connecticut in the previous 24 hours. Results of 45,062 new tests had been gathered, yielding a one-day positivity rate of 1.84%. There were 428 people hospitalized with the disease, five fewer than the day before, while 11 more had died, pushing the toll since the pandemic began to 7,704.

New London County hospitalizations were down to 20. L+M reported it had seven COVID-19 patients and Westerly Hospital, four.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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