In a football town, the stadium on game nights is the place to be. In McKinney, 12,000 people gather on game nights to watch their high school football team dominate the multi-million dollar field. They cheer their teams on, sometimes wearing war paint and often waving school spirit flags to indicate their allegiance.
Since 2018, the McKinney ISD Football Stadium has become a place of memories for Collin County families, and, at $69.9 million, nearly takes the top spot for the most expensive stadium in Texas, falling just behind Katy ISD, which opened the $70.3 million Mike Johnston Field at Legacy Stadium in 2017.
Now, with COVID-19 cases nearly doubling since the holidays, neighbors, coworkers, and classmates may be soon seeing each other at the stadium for a different reason: the COVID-19 vaccine.
Collin County officials are considering the nearly $70 million stadium as a site for their COVID-19 vaccine “mega center.” Other proposed sites include the Plano Centre, John Clark Field, and the stadium at Plano Senior High School.
Collin County may need them all. In Collin County, more than 100,000 residents have signed up on the county’s COVID-19 vaccine website, according to the health department.
What is unclear is when the mega centers will be able to open with the vaccine shortage. At last week’s meeting, county commissioners claimed that they couldn’t utilize mega centers until they receive enough vaccines. On Tuesday, Gov. Abbott claimed that one million doses had been delivered over a five-week period. So far Collin County has received about 1,000 doses. They are expecting 7,000 new doses this week, though state health officials project thousands more are coming — at some point.
It’s a sore issue for Collin County Judge Chris Hill. He projected his frustrations about the slow rollout on Facebook: “There’s been a disservice that’s been done by telling people to get in line when there’s nothing to get in line for.
“It’s like saying it’s time for your Christmas shopping, everybody go get in line, but it’s not really time for Christmas shopping.”
The first rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine hit Collin County in early January. Officials received a 1,000 doses initially for the phase 1A group. Phase 1A includes first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus, about 1,008 amount of people in the county.
The county quickly went through the initial doses. They still had 1A individuals needing the vaccine when Abbott announced that the phase 1B group was eligible to receive the COVID vaccine. This group includes people 65 and older and people 16 and older who have a chronic medical condition.
“Each week this month, we are slated to receive — and this is on a weekly basis — we’re slated to receive 310,000 first doses,” Abbott said at a Jan. 11 press conference. “And then in addition to those first doses, each week… the state will be getting between 320,000 and 500,000 second doses. And so each week there will be 310,000 new people getting their very first dose and between 320,000 and 500,000 people getting their second dose.”
Shortly after Gov. Abbott made his announcement, Collin County officials asked the state for 10,o00 doses immediately, 14,000 for the week starting Jan. 18, and then 42,000 doses every week thereafter starting Jan. 25, Collin County Commissioner Susan Fletcher told constituents on Thursday.
County spokesman Darrell Willis said Collin County Health Care Services received its additional 2,000 doses Tuesday morning. The county resumed distributing those doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 Vaccine concerns
Last week, there were a lot of questions about the county’s plan at the Collin County Commissioners Court meeting. Some concerned residents wanted to know when they could get their first and second shot. Others expressed confusion about whether 1A phase shots will be given out before the local authorities vaccinate people in the 1B phase. A Frisco man told commissioners that he didn’t understand the local information he found online.
In an absence of available vaccine doses, the county commissioners tried to work out these and other vaccine-related questions. Commissioners directed the county health care services to sort out the flaws in the county’s call-back plan for the thousands waiting in line. Officials then decided it won’t matter which phase people belong to; they will receive the vaccine in the order in which they sign up.
Of course, Collin County officials aren’t requiring residents to get the vaccine through the county. They can also find the vaccine through a pharmacy of their choice or visit a neighboring county or city.
At the commissioners meeting Monday, county officials partnered with Curative Medical Associates, a private company that has assisted local governments disburse the vaccines nationwide. They say the company will give Collin County authorities the capacity to give out up to 6,000 shots per day.
They approved the contract with Curative in a 5-0 vote. Curative, according to the county’s agreement, will establish several “mega centers” across Collin County. There are 78 vaccine mega centers across the state, Abbott announced at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
A Curative representative said the company will distribute the vaccine using a mixture of vans, kiosks, and the mega centers.
But that will begin only after the state sends the county and its partner agencies more vaccines, officials said.
“We can’t give out what we don’t have,” Hill said.