AUSTIN (Nexstar) — While the kitchen at Sam’s BBQ in east Austin cooks up lunch, the State of Texas served up shots on the patio.
On the same day Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced 20 million COVID-19 doses had been administered to Texans, Sam’s hosted a few extra guests — a mobile vaccination team comprised of Texas National Guard soldiers and Texas Division of Emergency Management personnel.
After a member of the team ate at Sam’s last week, he found out some of the kitchen staff had not been vaccinated. So the state partnered with the Sam’s owner to host a community vaccine clinic in order to reach people who had not yet been able to get a dose.
“It makes me feel like I’m helping the community, like I’m helping the city,” owner Brian Mays said.
This phase of the pandemic response aims to reach people in Texas communities where people live, work, and eat.
“Meeting people where they are, whether they’re homebound Texans or just Texans in the community… is super important,” Seth Christensen, chief of media and communications for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said.
Texans can dial the state’s new call center at (844) 90-TEXAS to connect groups of at least 10 people with one of the mobile teams anywhere in the state.
“We work with our state level agencies and finding out where the deficiencies are, and we pool our resources together, and then we spin our teams up, and we get them out to where they need to be,” said Texas National Guard Sgt. John Tyler, who serves as the Operations Noncommissioned Officer in Charge for the capital area mobile testing team.
Christensen said groups in the Central Texas region have been largely receptive to the plan, but has found a need to push harder in other regions.
“I think that when you see your friends and your family and your neighbors and business owners in your community being vaccinated, that it encourages you, and it shows you that these vaccines are safe,” he explained.
State leaders hope tapping into local establishments helps people with transportation challenges reach vaccines closer to home. It promotes small businesses too.
Tameka Mays, Brian’s daughter and co-owner of the Austin Daiquiri Factory — which she launched in January next to the BBQ restaurant — said soliciting neighbors to get vaccinated brings awareness to the business and connects people in the area.
“It brings us closer to the community and gets us involved in the community,” she said.
With the latest incentive coming in the form of federal guidance green-lighting fully-vaccinated people to go out and about without masks, Mays said he hopes his business operations will continue to improve along with the health of his community.
“I hope everybody gets there, and we’ll all be alright one day,” he said.