FORT WORTH, Texas - Tarrant County leaders want more people to register for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Leaders there said Tuesday the focus is no longer just on high-risk groups and essential workers to get on the list to get vaccinated, rather every resident over 16 should be signing up.
"The key thing I want everybody to take away from this is everybody needs to be registering. We are not just interested in 1A and 1B or teachers and child care workers. We want everybody to register because I truly believe that in the coming weeks we are going to be inundated with vaccines," said Judge Glen Whitley.
The FEMA site at Globe Life Field, now entering its third week, is doing so well in terms of volume that the county’s central sign-up pool is dwindling.
"This business of we are using the FEMA vaccines to catch up, well they’ve caught up. In fact Collin’s ahead of us, Denton‘s ahead of us Dallas, we are about 1000 away from Dallas -- them being behind us," Whitley said.
FEMA has targeted people in underserved communities. The result has pushed forward the numbers for minority ethnic groups getting signed up and vaccinated.
"At the FEMA site in particular, we’re approaching about 22 percent from the Hispanic community. About a little bit over 10 percent from the African-American community. About 8 percent Asian community, so we are seeing that impact of that site focusing on underserved communities that is actually working," Whitley said.
So far, roughly 11% of Tarrant County residents have received one dose and 6% are fully vaccinated.
"If Texas gets two million more vaccines, our share of that will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 180,000," Whitley said.
But Judge Whitley says it’s unclear whether or not those extra doses would come at once or over the span of several weeks.
Judge Whitley and commissioners are also working to get all of the county’s vaccine sites prepared for a big influx of supply.
County partners like UNT Health Science Center, several pharmacy chains and private health vendors, like Curative and Optimum, would increase capacity. But Whitley says, even still, it could become overwhelming.
"Curative that would be a tool. Optimum that would be a tool. We’re going to ask all of the sites to hopefully at that point we’d ask them all to go to seven days a week. But they can’t stay at seven days a week very long, that’s an exhaustive thing," Whitley said.
UNT is also developing a social media outreach campaign to boost registration and asking for community suggestions on new site locations.
In the meantime, Public Health Director Vinny Taneja says regardless of the mask mandate being lifted, it’s too soon to ditch the masks altogether.
"All of those public health measures have really helped lock COVID down, and we should continue to do that until we can really lock COVID away," he said.
In separate county business, the commissioners moved to allow the existing mask mandate for Tarrant County buildings to remain in place despite the statewide mandate ending on Wednesday.