At the time officials were monitoring travelers who had returned from abroad with a "mysterious respiratory illness," now known as COVID-19.
"It is bittersweet because most of us have folks that we personally know who have suffered from COVID-19 and we have folks that have died because of complications," said APH director Stephanie Hayden-Howard, who said she is excited COVID-19 vaccines are in the community but wants the public to understand they are limited.
"It is going to take us a while, so we ask for your patience. We ask you to continue to do those things which we know can protect you," said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority for Austin-Travis County.
During the briefing, APH officials acknowledged that their online vaccine registration process has had some technical issues. "The IT group is definitely taking feedback that we have received from the community about issues and continue to troubleshoot everything. We’re equally as frustrated on our end," said APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette.
Escott says APH will continue to "struggle with these IT challenges," until "we can get to a stage where folks can easily register and schedule for vaccine."
The group said another challenge is actually contacting those who do get an appointment. Currently, APH is only releasing appointments on Tuesday and Thursday and is sending out emails a day in advance.
"What we’re finding is individuals that are 80 years of age and older. they typically are not checking their email on a regular basis," said Escott.
To try and work around this, Austin Public Health is opening up a call center in partnership with Travis County. It is expected to open next Monday. "We will have a person that will be giving them a call, but, I want to caution you all that there in our system, there are over 11,000 people that are over 80 years of age and older so all of them will not be called," Hayden-Howard said.
Saturday evening, APH is expected to launch its COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, which will only display the department’s data.
With vaccine distribution inching forward, APH officials ask Austinites to stay home for the big game and avoid attending or hosting super spreader events. The city confirms code enforcement teams will be out in increased numbers this weekend checking on restaurants and bars.
"We can’t enforce our way out of COVID-19. We do really need folks to heed the warnings, heed the advice," said Escott.