AUSTIN, Texas - The vehicles rolling through the Circuit of the Americas Friday were not moving very fast, but the gathering there is still all about speed.
"We are in a race against the virus," said Travis County Judge Andy Brown, who joined other local officials at COTA for another round of mass vaccinations.
No walk-ups were allowed and shots are only given to those who had appointments. The goal over the next three days is to provide 10,000 COVID-19 vaccinations at the COTA site. Those in the 1a/1b category are still being targeted although Brown did say the list has been modified.
"We also have some AISD employees, we have reached out to Del Valle ISD as well, we are going to be vaccinating teachers at Del Valle ISD this weekend as well. And I hope is the following week will do more with the school districts, possibly to have one day where we just vaccinating teachers but we’re still working on that one," said Judge Brown.
The COTA hub is a coordinated effort between Travis, Bastrop, Hays, and Caldwell counties. The team-up could provide a statewide model to help rural counties according to Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape.
"This is the hope because this is where everybody can get great treatment and we’re all equal here there’s no competition," said Judge Pape.
The vaccination hub in Williamson County at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex was also ramping up Friday. On Saturday, shots will be given around the clock until Sunday morning as part of a 24-hour campaign.
"Nobody else has done this it’s unprecedented in a really cool way for a change," said Jen Stratton with Family Hospital Systems, which runs the Kelly Reeves hub. Stratton said the site, on average, gives out about 12,000 shots a week. With the Vax-a-thon the weekly number is expected to hit 24,000.
"We are a company that does not sleep," said Stratton.
The Williamson County Hub, like the COTA, is by appointment only. No walk-ups will be allowed. Those moving through the line Friday were impressed by how efficient the process was. But there have been glitches.
"The problem is, is the chaos trying to get your vaccine appointment, that’s where the chaos is," said James Keisling who got his second shot.
An example of a schedule backup problem happened last week at the University of Texas and in Georgetown. Several people were turned away for not having valid appointments. It was determined a few individuals had shared their information with others. Now extra screening is being done at COTA, and a new online confirmation step is required in Williamson County.
"We are asking people who have already been registered, they will receive another link from us to register in our system again, we ask the public do not ignore that and that they would re-register to make sure all of their info is safe and these links cannot be shared," said Stratton.
This weekend's big push comes with the expectation of big crowds brought on by spring break. Without a statewide mask mandate, the concern is that’s all the work done to this point could be undone.
"I am really concerned about spring break, I’m really concerned that more and more people are beginning to think it’s kinda like mission accomplished, but that hasn’t happened. We’re seeing a greater percentage of people in our hospitals being younger people and it is still a serious illness even for them, but it’s that community that’s passing this virus around the most," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
Regardless of what spring break brings, the lack of a larger supply of vaccines will continue to prevent every hub from operating at full capacity. "We are ready to go, we’ve got the Chick-fil-A system set up out here, we just need customers all right so send some vaccines," said Judge Pape.
A smaller hub site is being set up in Pflugerville, according to Travis County officials. With that one, and others in Travis and Williamson counties, the current push could yield big results. It's possible that between Monday, March 1st, and Sunday, March 7th, about 60,000 people may have received at least their first shot.