County greets COVID vax expansion

All Texas adults who want a shot can get one starting Monday

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Hospital workers talk to patients after receiving their Pfizer shots last week at the Ellis County Vaccination Hub at the Waxahachie Senior Activity Center. Beginning Monday, all adults ages 16 and above will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Ellis County commissioners lauded the news Tuesday that every adult who wants a COVID-19 vaccination can get a shot in the arm starting this coming Monday.

The announcement broke while county emergency services coordinator Samantha Pickett was updating commissioners on the progress of the local vaccination hub at the Waxahachie Senior Activity Center during Tuesday’s regular bi-weekly meeting of commissioners at the Ellis County Historic Courthouse.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson asked Pickett to repeat what she said, but it was true. Starting Monday, all restrictions are off for those 16 years of age and older.

“All adults will be eligible to receive the COVID vaccine,” Pickett said. “The demand is increasing for us, but the supply has not gotten to where we want to be at this moment.”

The expansion of vaccine eligibility led to discussion of extending the hub past its projected end date. Pickett said the initial goal of the hub was to be open for 12 weeks, and she added that she hopes that local pharmacies will be able to pick up some of the vaccinations once the hub winds down.

As of March 20, Ellis County had administered 38,300 doses, of which 27,175 are first doses and 11,125 were second doses resulting in full vaccination. Average wait times have been 20 to 25 minutes and there have been relatively few adverse reactions, Pickett said.

Pickett said the county had received only 3,200 vaccinations before Jan. 11, when the county discussed forming a partnership with Baylor Scott & White and the city of Waxahachie to form a vaccination hub. Other cities in Ellis County joined in, and the hub opened its doors on Feb. 2.

County Judge Todd Little said the county is spending resources to operate the hub, but that stakeholders are interested in extending it past the expected May 1 closing date because of the benefits they are seeing. Little said the county has funds available to extend the program, and those funds will be reimbursed.

“We are getting folks from outside the county who are coming in, but Ellis County citizens are benefiting at a 74 to 76 percent rate,” Little said.

Grayson said he was concerned about staffing at the hub, which Pickett said included up to 145 personnel daily. A March 17 Daily Light story highlighted the need for non-clinical volunteers to help with the hub in a variety of ways. To sign up to volunteer, visit:  https://www.signupgenius.com/go/volunteerwaxahachie .

“I realize the money’s there, but it’s the people resources I’m most concerned with,” Grayson said.

Pickett said extending the hub another four weeks would result in the total expense of $307,000 in labor and in-kind meals.

Little said almost every vaccine that is being sent to Ellis County is being used, with only two to four vaccines being wasted out of thousands.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Kyle Butler was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Other items

• An amended tax abatement agreement with Triumph Aerostructures, LLC was approved that assigns the agreement to Arlington Capital Partners. The abatement, which dates from 2012, expires next year.

• The consent agenda was approved, consisting of approval of regular bills, previous minutes, acceptance of reports and budgetary line item transfers. The annual review of the Ellis County investment policy was pulled from the consent agenda and approved separately following a presentation from county treasurer Cheryl Chambers.

• Amendments to the county’s development regulations were approved following a public hearing. County planning and development director Alberto Mares highlighted the updates, which covers process efficiencies, drainage requirements, pavement standards and other changes. At the request of Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry in Butler’s absence, the court will revisit the updates during its May 18 scheduled regular meeting.

• A cooperative purchasing interlocal agreement with 1Government Procuring Alliance was approved.

• An exemption was granted from bidding requirements for the purchase of proprietary election ballots and related services from Election Systems & Software, LLC.  Following this, a contract with the company was approved on an as-needed basis.

• The lease of nine vehicles was approved for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office in an amount not to exceed $144,000. County purchasing agent E.J. Harbin said the leases include seven Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicles, one pickup for undercover use and one pickup for use by the ECSO criminal investigative division.

• Commissioners OK’d a contract with American Mechanical Services on an as-needed basis for HVAC, boiler maintenance and mechanical services.

• The court agreed to extend an ongoing service agreement with CASA of Ellis County for a maximum fee of $25,000 for a 12-month period.