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Gov. Charlie Baker speaks after a tour of an N95 mask manufacturing site in West Bridgewater on Wednesday morning.

Advance Registration Being Launched for COVID-19 Vaccines

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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WEST​ BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — Residents will be able to register in advance for COVID-19 vaccine appointments beginning Friday and four days are being set aside specifically for educators.
The new registration site is applicable only to the seven mass vaccination sites for now and is being supported through a partnership with Google Cloud. It is expected to be online by midmorning on Friday. 
"The preregistration system is designed to make it easier for residents to secure an available appointment, and will soon replace the current process of large numbers of appointments being posted online on Thursday mornings," Gov. Charlie Baker said on Wednesday. "People should keep in mind that it will probably still take several weeks for eligible residents to be notified that there is an appointment available for them, because we're still receiving a real limited federal supply of vaccine doses to support our efforts here in Massachusetts."
Registration can take place over the website or by calling 211 and will be notified within 24 hours once an appointment is available. They will also be able to get weekly updates. 
This Thursday will be the last day that large numbers of appointments will be posted although residents will still be able to sign up at local or pharmacy sites as vaccines are available. 
"The process will hopefully ease some of the anxiety and the burden folks have been experiencing trying to secure an appointment because of the constraints apply a vaccine," said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. 
Workers in the K-12 education system and child care workers can sign up for appointments on three Saturdays — March 27, April 3, April 10 — and Sunday, April 11. These are only available, at this point, at the mass vaccination sites, the closest of which is the Eastfield Mall in Springfield. 
The state is pushing for all or most students to start heading back into classrooms beginning in April, an effort supported by the federal government. 
More than 750,000 residents have been fully vaccinated since late December and 2.2 million doses overall have been administered. Baker said the state has the capacity to significantly increase that number but the bottleneck is access to vaccines through the federal government. 
The main issue has been production — the now three main vaccine suppliers have not been able to keep up with demand. On Wednesday, the Biden administration committed to purchasing another 100 million of the single-dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 
"We heard in December that we would have more supply than we had demand by February, and then we heard in January we would have more supply than we would have demand by March. And then we heard J&J and Pfizer and Moderna make commitments to Congress about where they were going to be in March, and we're basically being told that between now and the end of March we shouldn't expect any additional supply," the governor said. "And we will in April have more supply than we have demand. If we ever get to that point."
Baker described it as a race against time in case of a third surge.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said officials were informed by the federal government on Tuesday night that there would be no additional new doses until the end of March. 
The governor made his comments during a tour of an N95 mask manufacturing facility operated by Shawmut Corp. and Fallon Co. on the anniversary of his issuance of emergency orders that basically shut down the state because of the pandemic.. 
Shawmut Corp. CEO James Wyner said their plans were the mass production of high-quality and cost-effective personal protective equipment that would make the West Bridgewater facility one of the largest producers in North America. 
"We expect to have 500 people employed here by the end of this year, or first quarter of next year," he said. "Those are good paying, manufacturing jobs with upward mobility attached to them. ... Our vision here is to serve as many frontline health-care workers, clinics, hospitals, businesses institutions with these masks. 
"The need is not just COVID based. The need is going to continue afterwards. If we just supply a small portion of what's currently being imported that there'll be a robust industry for us and others here."
Baker again reminded residents that the vaccine was a light at the end of the tunnel but it was critical to continue following masking, sanitation and distancing guidelines since it is not known if vaccinated people can still transmit the virus. 

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April Snow in the Forecast

Main Street in North Adams on Wednesday.
Say goodbye to this burst of spring — Mother Nature prefers a little chaos in her work.
The warm temperatures of Wednesday are about to plummet as a snowstorm — yes a snowstorm — bears down on the Berkshires. 
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for Pittsfield north and parts of Southern Vermont beginning Thursday evening through Friday night. Total accumulations could reach 6 inches in the higher elevations.
Accuweather is forecasting up to 10 inches with rain all day Thursday and temperatures dipping into the 40s. Thursday night will temperatures dropping into the 30s.
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