Johnson County commissioners on Monday approved spending up to $30,000 in emergency funds for registration software related to COVID-19 vaccinations. Their vote follows the recent announcement that the Cleburne Fire Department has been designated a vaccination hub for Johnson County.
Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore meanwhile reported that he should know in the next few days whether the state will continue funding the free testing center at the Cleburne Senior Center through March. As of now, the center is scheduled to remain open through the end of the month.
“We have been named a hub and have been given, it appears at this point, 1,000 vaccines per week,” Cleburne Fire Chief Scott Lail told commissioners. “We plan to administer those over a three, four or five day period depending on the weeks falls as to when we get the vaccines.
“We don’t have them yet. They are allocated to us we just haven’t been given a ship date yet. They should arrive this week. So now the biggest hurdle for us becomes, once we get the vaccines in hand, how do we get vaccines in arms?”
That, Lail said, comes down to scheduling.
“As it stands now, you would have to call us and we would have to make an appointment for you,” Lail said. “We don’t have enough staff to schedule all those appointments.”
The software program will allow residents to register and make their own appointments online.
“We don’t have to talk to them if they have computer access or a cellphone,” Lail said. “Once they register, they get what’s known as a QR code and an appointment time. They’ll come to the [Cleburne Conference Center], we’ll scan their QR code and because of that the time it takes for them to register goes from six or seven minutes per person down to 30, 45 seconds.
“Without this scheduling software there would be no way for us to vaccinate 1,000 or more per week.”
Lail added that vaccination information must also be entered into a state database something that consumes additional time for hub workers.
“The beautiful thing about this software is that you put all your information in electronically and then your info is securely pushed to [the state data base], which saves us a lot of input and time and gives us more time to concentrate on administering vaccines,” Lail said.
The hub has ostensibly been created to serve Johnson, Hill, Bosque and Somervell counties though technically Texas residents may register at any hub site throughout the state.
More than 2,400 Johnson County residents have already been vaccinated in Tarrant County for instance, Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon said.
“This is important,” Harmon said of the software. “We’re talking about peoples’ lives. We’ve been as proactive as we can so far and the vaccine has just recently started ramping up. But this software is the key element to that and this is an organized method to doing that. I told [Cleburne City Manager Steve Polasek] that Johnson County being a hub for the whole county we should pay for that software.”
Lail added that Burleson, Corpus Christi, Dallas County and others are already using the same software.
The program should go live for scheduling next week, Lail said, provided vaccines arrive.
“I speculate on inoculations because we don’t have the vaccines in hand and haven’t got a ship date on that,” Lail said. “We’ve decided we will not under any circumstances make appointments for vaccines we don’t have. Because, if you watch the news, you see how many vaccines hubs have gotten obliterated for scheduling and canceling. So one of the things we want to make sure people know is that if you get an appointment scheduled with us there will be a vaccine there.”
Information on where and how to sign up for the list will be released soon.
“We’re telling people if you’re already on the Tarrant County list or other lists, stay on there, but sign up for us too once we become available,” Lail said. “I know of people on multiple lists. My advice is the first call you get, go get your vaccine. Don’t wait.”
Cleburne, Lail said, is also in the process of setting up a phone bank to take registrations from those without computers or Smartphones.
“We’ll have a single number with multiple people staffing it,” Lail said. “If you know someone who’s home bound or doesn’t have a computer we’re encouraging families, neighbors, friends to help them sign up. But for those who don’t have anyone who can help them they can call the hot line number and we will enter them in.”
Details on the phone bank and the hot line number will be announced soon, Lail added.
Moore added that he and others are working with Meals On Wheels North Central Texas to reach those residents home bound or lacking transportation.
Vaccines for now remain available only to those classified 1A — health workers and first responders— and 1B, those 65 and older or with underlying medical issues.
Vaccinations will likely not be made available to the general public until mid to late summer at the earliest, Moore said.
Cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases in Johnson County total 15,193 of which 507 are active cases, Moore said.
“Two weeks ago active cases were about 930,” Moore said. “Previous to that they were flat or dropping. But now we’ve seen a consistent drop from that peak of earlier this year.”
Hospitals continue to see dropping numbers as well, Moore said.
“The hospitals themselves are staying full, 93 percent full,” Moore said. “You’ll see that on the news. But that 93 percent doesn’t just represent people who are sick with COVID-19 and those numbers continue to lower.”