NEW YORK – Yankee Stadium was opened as a COVID-19 mass vaccination site Friday by officials trying to boost inoculation rates in surrounding Bronx neighborhoods hard hit by the pandemic.
The megasite is being restricted to residents of the New York City borough with the highest percentage of positive coronavirus test results. Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “a different kind of opening day” hours after a long line formed outside the stadium on a damp morning.
“This is about protecting people who need the most protection because the Bronx is one of the places that bore the brunt of this crisis of the coronavirus," he said at a stadium-side news conference. "The Bronx has suffered.”
De Blasio, a Red Sox fan, donned a Yankees cap in gratitude to the team and declared himself a fan of Boston's archrival “for one day only.”
The site established with help from the city and state has registered about 13,000 of the 15,000 appointments available in its first week, officials said. It will initially be open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Goldie Albergottie said it was a simple process of showing her identification and getting a shot.
“It’s not so easy sometimes to get an appointment. I was registered around town and nobody called me," she said, but her doctor "was on the ball, and found out as soon as Yankee Stadium got the vaccine.”
Not everyone had a smooth experience. Lawrence Francis, who was told to come 15 minutes before his appointment, was discouraged from getting a vaccine by a long wait.
“Look at this line, and it’s raining and it’s cold and I’m elderly,” he said. "So, you know, it’s an issue.”
Plans to provide COVID-19 inoculations at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, the New York Mets’ home in Queens, were delayed by a shortage of vaccine doses.
No opening day for vaccinations at Citi Field has been announced.
Officials encouraging people to get vaccinated enlisted former Yankees star relief pitcher Mariano Rivera to help. Appearing at the news conference with de Blasio, the Baseball Hall of Famer said he wanted the support the people who supported him for so many years.
“We saved so many games here,” he said, “but now it’s about saving lives.”
Associated Press writer Michael Hill in Albany contributed to this report.