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Old Sears at Hanes Mall to be COVID-19 vaccination site. Goal is open on Jan. 25.
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Old Sears at Hanes Mall to be COVID-19 vaccination site. Goal is open on Jan. 25.

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The former Sears retail store at Hanes Mall owned by Novant Health Inc. is going to serve as a COVID-19 mass-vaccination site for Forsyth County, the health system said Friday.

The goal is to open the Hanes Mall site on Jan. 25, said Dr. Pam Oliver, president of Novant's Physician Network. 

Novant said the site could provide up to 7,000 vaccinations a day — if it's able to get a consistent supply of vaccine from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The doses would be provided by appointment only. Oliver said the current plan is a weekday schedule of either 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., again depending on weekly allocations from DHHS.

Novant's existing vaccination site on Highland Avenue would move to the Hanes Mall site.

Novant plans a community site in eastern Winston-Salem where it could provide between 500 and 550 doses per week. That site has not yet been chosen. 

Oliver said there would be a similar vaccination initiative in Charlotte at the Spectrum Center and sites in Brunswick and Rowan counties.

The real-estate arm of Novant bought the Sears Auto Center and the mall department store for $14.5 million in October 2018.

The purchase included the 175,000-square-foot store, the outparcel automotive store and the parking lots to the north and east of the mall stores — altogether 16.72 acres.

In September, Novant consolidated its Triad COVID-19 testing centers into the former Sears Auto Center.

The center at 190 Hanes Mall Circle is conducting testing for COVID-19 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Screenings are available without a referral or appointment.

Novant said it chose the Sears sites in part because they are accessible by public transportation, and can accommodate more patients and offer extended hours of service.

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Charles Gwinn, Hanes Mall's general manager, said Novant’s use of the former Sears building for immunization purposes during the pandemic fits the mall's "community hub mission well."

"We look forward to supporting the rollout in whatever way we can to ensure a convenient and helpful community response."

Mass-vaccination sites

The Novant mass-vaccination site at Hanes Mall is one of three planned for the county, with the others to be operated separately by Atrium Health and the county Department of Public Health.

Atrium said Thursday it plans a mass-vaccination site in the Winston-Salem area through affiliate Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The site is part of a 1 million-dose public-private partnership initiative focused foremost on Charlotte.

Novant announced Thursday its 1 million-dose initiative that will be allocated through six mass vaccination sites covering 14 counties.

Novant said its effort would “more than quadruple the amount of appointments available in each community.”

The Atrium and Novant initiatives are being coordinated with DHHS.

Novant and Wake Forest Baptist have said they will provide vaccine to individuals in their respective network systems as they become eligible in DHHS' vaccination format.

On Tuesday, state Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen told legislators that DHHS’ mass-vaccination effort has a combined goal of 45,500 shots per week.

DHHS confirmed Thursday the Forsyth Department of Public Health would handle that mass-vaccination site, likely at Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. The Forsyth Board of Commissioners will vote next week on approving an interlocal agreement with the city of Winston-Salem to use the fairgrounds.

Joshua Swift, Forsyth’s health director, said he is hopeful that the fairgrounds will be available within two to three weeks.

“Our current capacity at the health department is to vaccinate 500 individuals per day,” deputy county manager Shontell Robinson said Thursday. “The fairgrounds will allow us to at least double that amount per day.”

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