A new controversy over how to get the people most at risk of COVID-19 to the Fair Park vaccination hub pits Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson against several city council members.
Johnson ordered the council members' request for registration support to be denied on Wednesday, then Thursday night proposed a very similar plan himself.
It comes as Dallas County Commissioners are still grappling with the same issue, after their plan to prioritize certain hard-hit ZIP codes was rejected by the state.
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Community leaders who agree with the goal of more people vaccinated from those same ZIP code areas, stepped into the city fight outside the Fair Park vaccination hub Thursday.
They supported the initial plan from several city council members to aggressively promote vaccine registration in those areas.
The council members asked City Manager T.C. Broadnax for city support in the form of supplies and laptop computers to help volunteers who have already been doing the registration work.
Want to Get on a Vaccine Waitlist?
County health departments have launched waitlists for adults 16 years old and over.
You can register to recieve the vaccination in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Links are below:
You do not need to be a resident of the county to register for a COVID-19 vaccine in that county -- registration is open to anyone in Texas. For those without internet access, Tarrant County is also taking registrations by phone at 817-248-6299. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS vaccine hotline at 1-855-IMMUNE9 (1-855-466-8639). In Denton County, call 940-349-2585.
For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group in Texas, see this page from the Texas DSHS.
Johnson responded with a terse memo Wednesday, ordering the City Manager to disregard the request. The memo said the council members should have gone to the mayor first since he is the official city emergency management director under state law.
“As a supporter of Mayor Johnson, I’m upset and dismayed at this move, this rather thin-skinned move on his behalf,” said Elite News Publish Darryl Blair. “Shame on the mayor for doing this.”
Community activist Venus Cobb said older residents in Southern Dallas neighborhoods need extra help with registration that people in other parts of the city with better internet connectivity may not.
“You have to educate them on vaccination and provide the resources to help them get here,” Cobb said.
Johnson declined an interview request Thursday morning but his office provided a statement.
"We need to put an end to political games during this vaccine roll-out. How and when eligible residents receive the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine should not be determined by your party affiliation, your ties to certain elected politicians, or to which church you belong. We have limited resources, and it is imperative that we develop sound outreach and vaccination strategies based on available data, the advice of experts, and state guidance — and not based on the interests of partisan politicians or of City Councilmembers who are up for re-election this spring. I have tasked my designated emergency management coordinator to develop a data-based plan for outreach and distribution, and I appreciate those of my colleagues who have offered their thoughts and support of the city’s efforts in a constructive way rather than through publicity stunts.”
Community activist Tabitha Wheeler-Reagan said she and others were already doing the registration outreach work and asked City Council Members for city help.
“This was most definitely not a publicity stunt,” she said.
Councilman Adam Bazaldua is one of the city council members who initially requested the support.
“If we’re not going to do our job as leaders to react to that, then what are we doing here. I need you to lead or get out of the way Mayor Johnson,” Bazaldua said.
Thursday night, Johnson's office issued a press release, announcing his plan for registration hubs to aid Dallas County efforts.
The mayor's press release said the exact location of the hubs would be determined by the emergency management department.
"It is also critical for our city government to make decisions that are based on data and facts rather than on politics or anyone's gut feeling. That is what good government does, and it is what our community demands from us," the mayor's press release said. "This plan accomplishes that goal — and it does so in the right way."
Council members Bazaldua, Chad West and Paula Blackmon filed a request with the city secretary Monday night to discuss registration centers, the role of the city emergency management coordinator, possible city distribution of vaccines and updates from the mayor.
"It is time to have this conversation to gain understanding, develop a plan to move forward, and continue the work we are expected to do. People are frustrated, confused and scared. We must answer their calls for help," Bazaldua, West and Blackmon wrote in a statement released Friday.
At the same time, Dallas County Commissioners are considering how to replace the ZIP code plan they approved Tuesday and then withdrew Wednesday after state officials objected to it.
“What we need to do is get in writing what our goal is, and how we're going to get there and how we're going to keep ourselves accountable,” Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch said.
Thursday Koch said promoting registration in those areas is a good idea.
“Every effort to get people signed up is a positive one,” Koch said.
Another special meeting of Dallas County Commissioners could happen Friday.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who opposed the ZIP code plan over concerns the state would object to it, said he too is seeking a plan that works.
“It's not important who's to blame. What's important is moving forward, since we all want equity,” Jenkins said.
The community activists who gathered at Fair Park Thursday made it clear that they will be watching.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.