VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — The first 1,000 people in line for the COVID-19 vaccine at Daytona Stadium will be allowed to park inside the facility’s gates overnight Monday into Tuesday to prevent the lines from spewing out into traffic.
The city of Daytona Beach announced the change Monday evening after the line for Tuesday morning’s next 1,000 first-come-first-served doses of the vaccine started stacking up more than 12 hours before the next shot was set to be given.
“Although the police department has repeatedly encouraged people not to camp along LPGA Blvd., people are already doing so in anticipation for tomorrow’s event,” the city said in a statement. “To ensure their safety, the first 1,000 people will be allowed to enter Daytona Stadium through the facility’s north entrance beginning at 7 p.m. this evening.”
City officials said they hope the change will keep overnighters off the surrounding roadways and alleviate early morning traffic congestion on surrounding roads.
Seniors from across the area camped out for hours starting Sunday night to be among the first to receive the vaccine in Volusia County on Monday morning.
The COVID-19 vaccine distribution site at Daytona Stadium reached capacity before it was set to open Monday.
At 6:30 a.m., the site’s 1,000 allocated vaccines were all accounted for. The site wasn’t scheduled to open until 7 a.m. but officials started to let people in the gates at 4:30 a.m.
Officials closed the gates to incoming traffic and the site will reopen to give out another 1,000 doses of the vaccine starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
On Sunday, many people were so anxious to get the vaccine that they were willing to camp for days to make sure they are included in the first round of vaccines.
There were so many people on Sunday that police forced some people to leave the area.
“Obviously, it’s completely jammed up with people here already,” said DeLand resident Brian O’Sullivan.
“Oh, I want that vaccine more than anything,” said Daytona Beach Shores resident Deborah Boyd. “Honestly, I would have helicoptered in, parachuted to get this vaccine and I’m willing to wait as long as it takes. I can’t live like this anymore.”
Some of the seniors in line said they drove from miles away and waited for hours in their cars overnight parked off on the shoulder of a two-lane dimly lit road for a chance to get in.
“We did spend the night, but it was an adventure,” said Donna Maciolek, who was able to receive the vaccine.
This sentiment is widespread, and it’s led to phone lines and websites crashing as people 65 and older try to register for appointment slots. Volusia County officials said they do not have a system in place to set up appointments, leading to the hours long wait for its first-come-first-served vaccine lines.
“My recommendation to all the 65 and older that are looking for vaccines in Volusia is to wait for the time that is best for you, don’t put yourself in the car for hours,” Patricia Boswell, with the Florida Department of Health, said.
The Department of Health said by the end of this week it could have more details about when the next clinic may open up here in the county.
Across the state often thousands of spots are gone just hours after they become available.
But that doesn’t mean the state is out of vaccine doses – far from it, actually.
“We have more than enough supply of vaccination: we don’t have logistics to put this vaccine into people’s arms,” said Dr. Aftab Khan.
So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data shows more than 1.2 million doses have been allocated to Florida since Dec. 14.
As of Sunday morning, only 255,000 people had been injected statewide.
“The speed we are going through is not enough,” Khan said.
At this pace, it would take us nine months just to vaccinate Florida’s 65 and over population.
The governor wants hospitals to help more, but Khan said, “Our hospital system is so overwhelmed right now that they don’t have enough manpower to vaccinate everybody who needs to be vaccinated.”
They are overwhelmed as Florida now averages nearly 15,000 cases a day, which is why so many are so eager to get their first shot at protection.
As a state, Florida is speeding up vaccinations from 5,000 a day in week 1, to 15,000 a day in the past two weeks.
But Florida needs to administer at least three-to-four times that many, over multiple weeks, just to get through the doses the state already has, and to keep up with others coming in.
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