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'Sad To See Them Leave': Springfield Vaccination Site Gave A Mall A Needed Push

The outside of the mass vaccination site at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Adam Frenier/NEPM)
The outside of the mass vaccination site at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Adam Frenier/NEPM)

After distributing more than 178,000 doses, the mass vaccination site at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield closed last week. The state plans to take a more targeted approach to COVID-19 shots. But mall management and some tenants say having the clinic there provided a much needed boost to business.

One mid-morning in late June, there was a slow trickle of people checking in at the former Macy’s at the Eastfield Mall to get vaccinated at the site run by the company Curative, which is contracting with the state. It was a far cry from the long, often frustrating lines that formed this past winter.

“When Curative was open full time and rockin’ and rollin' when it first opened up, it was upwards of between 1,800 and 2,200 people through the doors a day,” said David Thompson, Eastfield Mall’s property manager.

And how many people came to the mall before the pandemic?

“Per day, maybe 400,” Thompson said.

Some of that increased traffic headed down the hall from the vaccination site to a Greek food stand run by Chris Hatzis. He said they served triple the usual number of customers when the clinic was busy, but things have since slowed down.

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The temporary bump, he said, helped keep his business going during a tough time.

“It was great to have them up there,” Hatzis said. “And business for us from the employees as well, not just the people going to get their vaccine. Sad to see them leave.”

And Eric Lopez, who manages a toy store at the Eastfield Mall, said his business also enjoyed a temporary spike during the vaccination site's heyday.

“It was nice,” Lopez said. “Just the amount of bodies coming in. The amount of people walking in, walking around was the really helpful thing”.

Thompson, the mall's manager, said when he spoke to visitors, some said they hadn't been there in years before going to get vaccinated. And others came back even after getting their shots.

“Everybody's got a good understanding, the mall will not be what the mall once was,” Thompson said. “Neither will any other brick-and-mortar mall. But we will be something new, different and better. And we're heading in that direction pretty quick.”

The mall’s unexpected COVID-19-related boost won’t necessarily end with the closure mass vax site. The Springfield courts have been using the old movie theaters to allow for more social distancing. And a spokesperson for Curative said the company will keep a smaller space in the Eastfield Mall, to act as a hub for its mobile vaccination clinics.

This story is a production of New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media on July 2, 2021.

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