County, GNR Health open mass vaccination center in former Sears store

Story Link : https://www.gwinnettcounty.com/web/gwinnett/home/stories/viewstory/-/story/CountyGNRHealthopenmassva

Gwinnett County Government and the Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale County Health Departments worked together to convert the bottom floor of the former Sears building at Gwinnett Place Mall into a mass vaccination center that will accommodate immunizing up to 3,000 people a day as vaccines become available.

“GNR Health is thrilled to partner with Gwinnett County to provide a static mass vaccination site that is central to serve our county,” said Dr. Audrey Arona, district health director of the Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale County Health Departments. “We a owe debt of gratitude to Chairwoman Hendrickson and her team for their contribution, including quickly readying the space for our use.”

The 80,000-square-foot site will be available for vaccinations starting Saturday, February 6 from 9:00am to 6:00pm, but appointments are required. Appointments can only be made at www.GNRHealth.com/covid-vaccine-scheduling. Individuals should bring an insurance card, photo ID, and proof of employment, such as a hospital badge, if applicable, to the appointment. Anyone needing assistance with mobility or other issues should bring someone with them to the appointment to help. Second dose appointments are made during the first appointment.

Currently, the limited supply of vaccines is reserved for health care workers, first responders, long-term care staff and their residents, and adults 65 and older and their caregivers.

GNR Health is scheduling appointments according to the supply of vaccine on hand. When the supply is depleted, appointments are suspended until the supply is restocked.

The Lawrenceville Health Center on Grayson Highway has been the only GNR Health vaccination location in Gwinnett County for the last few weeks, but that operation is now transferring to the Gwinnett Place Mall location. Currently, GNR Health is vaccinating about 1,000 people a day in Gwinnett County.

Health department officials estimate that initially the former Sears building vaccination center will be able to give shots to 1,000 people a day but could vaccinate up to 3,000 people daily if supplies are available.

The space is organized with social distancing in mind with directional signs and floor markers telling people where to stand safely apart. The public will enter through the main doors where they will be checked in and then follow stanchions to vaccination stations. After getting a shot, they will be allowed to rest in a large observation area for 15 to 30 minutes. Paramedics will be onsite for emergencies.

The location was converted from vacant space to a vaccination center in about two weeks.

“This has been a very gratifying project,” said Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson. “This will help protect the community and help us get back to normal, so the staff was very enthusiastic about getting this done. It took a lot of coordination with GNR Health and the Department of Support Services with planning, Fire and Emergency Services with inspections, Planning and Development with plan review and onsite inspections, and Transportation with traffic improvements, to name just a few departments that worked to get the site up and running. It was a great team effort, and I’m really proud of everyone involved.”

The Sears space is being leased to the County at no cost from NW Duluth LLC through December 31. The County and GNR Health considered several sites before settling on the old Sears building because it was in fairly good shape.

Once the contract was approved in late January, numerous county employees, consultants and contractors went to work to tune up the heating and air conditioning, install electrical outlets for computers, replace ceiling tiles, repair plumbing, lay out stanchions for crowd control, give the space a deep cleaning, produce interior and exterior signs, repair the parking lot, and add handicap signage and pavement markings.

Drive-thru testing services at the site will be added in February.

Funding for the project was covered by the federal CARES Act.

GNR Health needs volunteers to help staff the vaccination center. People interested in helping should contact the Medical Reserve Corps, MRC GEM, at www.mrcgem.com/join. Volunteers do not have to be a medical professional to join and can serve in a non-clinical capacity.