AUSTIN, Texas - A steady line of vehicles on Tuesday moved in and out of the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex. After this week, COVID-19 vaccine appointments will no longer be limited only to people in the 1 a, 1b, and 1c categories.
Landscaper Isaac Gonzales, like others his age, has been waiting to get a COVID-19 vaccine. "It’s the right thing to do, to have old people go first, but … I’m ready, I’m ready, yeah," he said.
"Very big, for everyone because we've been waiting to get shots and finally, be free of masks, have everyone safe and go back to normal how it used to be," said Gonzales.
How quickly people will get an appointment is determined by the increase in doses the state receives from the federal government. In Williamson County, there are about 30,000 people who are not in a priority group already on the waiting list.
California and Texas, according to data from the CDC, lead the nation in the total number of vaccinations administered. Because a lot of people live in both states, only about a quarter of their populations have received the first shot and that is why Austin-Travis County Health Authority Mark Escott is keeping his mandatory mask order in place.
"Some folks are asking, why is Austin, why is Travis County persisting in these mandates, why are they doing things that are more protective, than other jurisdictions, and the answer is, it’s working," said Escott.
In a joint meeting of the Travis County Commissioner's Court and Austin City Council, Escott said local COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rates are now flat after decreasing for the past several days.
"Again, it's concerning for us, it could be the prequel to a surge or an increasing cases, so again we've got to continue those efforts at masking despite being at a better place than we were a few weeks and certainly a few months ago," said Escott.
Allowing everyone to make an appointment for a vaccine will be a key part of containing any future surge, but there are concerns that some people could still miss out. That’s why the state health officials in the directive said selective line jumping will be allowed.
The state wants providers to let people who are 80 years old or older move to the front of the line. That includes walk-up locations like the one in Taylor. A recent rush prompted the health district to clarify the walk-up portion of the site is only intended for those in the priority categories and for those who do not have internet access to make appointments.
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell is optimistic things are about to change. "I will tell you in the days ahead, not too far from now, when you see more doses coming our way, you'll see walk-ups at multiple locations throughout Williamson County," said Gravell.
To help get more people in line, the state is launching next week an online registration site and a toll-free number to call.