Hundreds of people wait in line at the Wonderland Mall of the Americas, the site of University Health's COVID-19 mass vaccination hub.
Hundreds of people wait in line at the Wonderland Mall of the Americas, the site of University Health's COVID-19 mass vaccination hub. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced plans to set up “super sites” for COVID-19 vaccinations, but San Antonio might not be among the first cities to host a site, the governor said.

Planned for Houston and Dallas initially, the sites – which would differ in scale from state-designated mass vaccination hubs such as the Alamodome – would be able to vaccinate as many as 6,000 people a day every day of the week. Operating at that capacity for eight weeks would produce 275,000 inoculations at one site. In the eight weeks since vaccinations began in Bexar County, less than 167,000 residents have been vaccinated.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Monday said the City of San Antonio has demonstrated the capability to vaccinate large quantities of people and has a disproportionate percentage of people who qualify for a vaccine under the state’s initial phases of the rollout.

“We want to be top of the list,” Nirenberg said. “Frankly, San Antonio has shown throughout this pandemic that we have been able to able to innovate and step up where needed.”

Abbott said the super sites would ultimately expand to other cities in the state.

Bexar County has three mass vaccination sites in operation: the City’s Alamodome site, University Health System’s site at Wonderland of the Americas mall, and UT Health San Antonio’s hub.

“We’ve got an incredible operation at Wonderland and at the Alamodome,” Nirenberg said. “Imagine we have a V8 engine. … We’re right now in first gear based on the supplies that we’re getting. [Getting a super site] could take this up to fifth gear real fast if they gave us the supplies.”

One thing the mass inoculation sites will be cracking down on in the future is vaccine tourism. Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger, who runs the City’s COVID-19 pandemic response, said the City has seen a few out-of-state residents fly into San Antonio and pass through its mass vaccination site at the Alamodome. Staff at the site will begin checking for Texas residency, she said.

If you are eligible for a vaccine and have been unable to book an appointment to get inoculated, WellMed announced it would be reopening its reservation hotline on Tuesday morning, beginning at 8 a.m. Call 833-968-1745 to book an appointment. The line will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until WellMed’s vaccine supply is spoken for. If phone lines are overwhelmed, one of two messages will be played:

  • The line you are trying to reach is out of service. (cell phone users)
  • All circuits are busy. Please try your call later. (landline users)

Select CVS Pharmacy stores in San Antonio are expected to begin administering vaccinations including for phase 1B residents beginning on Friday through a federal program. Also part of the program is Walgreens, which will begin vaccinating eligible Bexar County employees Thursday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. I would also check H-E-B’s vaccination scheduler this week to see if they have appointments available in San Antonio.

Despite pleas from local officials, including Nirenberg and Wolff, teachers likely won’t be added to the state’s priority groups for COVID-19 vaccinations and will probably have to wait until summer to get a shot if they are not eligible under phases 1A or 1B.

Public school districts in San Antonio are making plans to administer a socially distanced but in-person state standardized exam this year, as state education officials have declined to cancel this year’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) after doing so last year in light of the pandemic. That won’t stop some elected officials from publicly calling for its suspension.

U.S. Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington) on Monday became the first federal lawmaker to die from complications of COVID-19. Wright, 67, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018.

Here are the local coronavirus numbers as of 7 p.m. Monday:

  • 183,436 total cases, 235 new cases
  • 2,362 deaths, one new death
  • 917 in hospital, 10% beds available
  • 351 patients in intensive care
  • 209 patients on ventilators, 56% ventilators available
  • 166,991 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.