People who qualify under Phase 1A or Phase 1B of the state's guidelines wait for their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, at a Houston Health Department's COVID-19 clinic.
( Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP
Cindy Rodriguez: It's The Takeaway. I'm Cindy Rodriguez in for Tanzina Vega. As we've just heard, the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine has been complicated and fraught with logistical nightmares. Texas is just one of the many states currently dealing with these rollout issues. The state will have received 1.5 million doses by the end of the week and as of Tuesday, only 33% of those doses have actually been administered according to the CDC.
Back in June, The Takeaway spoke with the mayor of Plano, Texas, Harry LaRosiliere, about the steps the city was taking to control the spread of COVID 19 and the lack of support he and some of his fellow Texas mayors felt they were getting from Texas governor, Greg Abbott. Mayor LaRosiliere joins us again now to talk about how the vaccine rollout has been for Plano. Mayor, thank you so much for being here.
Harry LaRosiliere: Hello, Cindy. Thank you for having me on.
Cindy: Tell us how many vaccines did your city receive and how many have been administered so far?
Harry: It's really a interesting and moving target. The state has given the city of Plano 500 doses so far for 1A recipients. That's essentially our frontline workers, our EMS and first responders, and that's been used already. They are also sending to pharmacies and hospitals and physicians, but it is happening in a very haphazard and unsystematic way, so it is putting some challenges on us in terms of the expectation of when and how this will continue to proceed.
Cindy: Just to give people context, what's the population of Plano?
Harry: We're a population of 300,000. We're the largest city in Collin County, which is about a million people in our county. We're just North of Dallas County and it's really difficult because what we're finding is that certain areas in Texas are getting more than they need, some areas are getting less than they need.
There's a discrepancy where you might have a smaller city receive a larger dosage than they actually can administer and they're holding onto the vaccine where cities like Plano, we desperately need more for even just to get to our first responders and our essential workers.
Cindy: 500 seems like a very small number to have received. Is that what you were expecting or were you expecting much more?
Harry: That's a loaded question, Cindy, when you think about it, because the lack of information or communication has been a difficult process to work through. We don't know what our dosage will be until 24 hours before we get it. That means, we'll know a day before we're going to get X amount and then we have to be fully prepared to distribute and administer it. 500 is not enough and we anticipate more.
I just don't think there's been enough coordination among our cities, so we're working on doing that locally here with our county and our other cities. In times of crisis, you have to take action and take things into your own hands. We're figuring out how we might be able to centralize the process a bit more locally so that we can do the best job for our citizens throughout the region.
Cindy: Does that mean you could go to some of these other places who have potentially more vaccine than they need?
Harry: Yes. The plan very loosely we're in discussions with the other major cities in Collin County and the county itself. We work on getting a database and whoever has the vaccines, whether it be Plano or somewhere else, we go off that list and it will be a question of which local city you'll go to rather than your own city. We've also made it clear to the state that we are willing to be a facility to administer the vaccines to the general public.
Right now, the vaccines we're getting is for city staff, but we've raised our hand and said we're willing to do our part to administer the vaccine to anybody. Our goal will be to set up sites within the city, city facilities, where we can set up a safe environment to allow those vaccines to [unintelligible 00:04:27]. Once we get them, we will get them into the people's arms. It's just a question of us getting it to us first.
Cindy: What does COVID look like right now in Plano? What's the rate of infection?
Harry: Rate of infection is right around 15%. As a result, we've had to scale back Texas more so than many other places, I think a bit more liberal in terms of their allowance to conduct business. I'm from New York and I had visited my mother who still lives in New York and it's a completely different environment because you can go to Plano or a Texas restaurant and it's at 50% and someplace, it was at 75% capacity.
Because of the infection rate increasing to over 15% statewide, that got scaled back to 50%, but that's still more than a lot of other places that don't allow indoor dining at all.
Cindy: Are you able to scale it back even more?
Harry: Yes. Governor Abbott has provided a framework that if there's a certain level that is achieved again in terms of the positivity rate and infection rate, that it can get scaled back but so far, I believe we're holding steady here at that 50% level. Locally, we cannot pass an ordinance to supersede the governor's orders, [unintelligible 00:05:51] emergency orders. That was something that happened over the past few months in the shutdown and the mask and all that.
There was some local cities that were looking to be a bit more proactive and that was taken away from us. That local authority was taken away from us.
Cindy: What about the people of Plano? Are they ready or are you seeing any skepticism or do you think that once you have the vaccine, it will be easily distributed?
Harry: Yes. That's the encouraging part, is that we're sensing there's a high desire for people to want to get vaccinated. If you're looking for a silver lining, there's enough people that are in line raising their hands that want the vaccine. It's on our part and I say "our" collectively from a government part too, to make it available because there's people who want it and we want as many people to get it and we want to achieve herd immunity, so we're encouraged by that.
You mentioned skepticism, I think that's part of American mindset now. I'm getting the emails and calls that am I hoarding the vaccine and why haven't I given it out? The answer is simply is we don't have it and once we have it, it doesn't do us any good to keep it. It's better in someone's arm than in a refrigerator. The frustration is being demonstrated that way when people say those types of things.
Cindy: Mayor, were there parts of Plano that were hardest hit, and are you prioritizing those communities?
Harry: Yes. We're fortunate in the sense that we are a fairly healthy community. During the surge, it was tough because our neighboring city, for example, Dallas, our biggest major city, just south of us was going through a lot of hardship. That did come to come into Plano quite a bit. We're really fortunate in that sense that we have a fairly healthy community. You know what? One death is too much.
If we can protect ourselves, then we can protect the cities around us and so it's important that we just move forward in that positive way.
Cindy: Mayor, we're going to have to leave it there. Mayor Harry LaRosiliere is the mayor of Plano, Texas. Thank you so much for your time.
Harry: Thank you, Cindy. I look forward to 2021 being a better and healthier year for all of us involved in that. Thank you for having me.
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