For two weeks in January, Donna Snyder had one focus: finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. The 69-year-old, who lives near Lake Travis, scoured newspaper pages, watched the news and tuned in to city press conferences. She signed up for waitlists in Austin, Fredericksburg and Waco, as well as in Collin and Williamson counties.
"It became my full-time job," she told Austonia.
On Jan. 22, Snyder received an email from Family Hospital Systems, a provider in Williamson County, alerting her that appointments were available. "I signed up that day," she said. Within 90 minutes, she had received her first shot. Her second appointment is scheduled for this week.
Although Snyder was "totally impressed" with the FHS system, she remains frustrated with Austin Public Health. "I am utterly angry and a thousand times disappointed at how poor the Austin process is," she said. "As far as Austin goes, I still need a vaccine."
Nearly three months into the vaccine rollout, Austinites continue to face long waitlists mired by technical glitches and report concerns about scheduling their second dose appointments. The fundamental problem is inadequate supply: with this week's allocation, Travis County will have received 233,515 initial doses, or enough to vaccinate 47% of residents who are currently eligible. (Nearly half of Travis County residents 16 and older fall into groups 1A and 1B, according to Texas Department of State Health Services data.) But Snyder and many other residents say that poor communication is making a stressful process worse.
"I would like an explanation for why the city of Austin, with all of the extraordinarily brilliant tech people in this town … why they screwed it up so bad," she said.
A decentralized process
DSHS established a number of vaccine hubs—including Austin Public Health—in mid-January, shifting its distribution strategy to focus on these sites in an effort to simplify the sign-up process and funnel doses to those providers capable of vaccinating 100,000 people or more. Shortly after, APH debuted its vaccine waitlist, through which it schedules appointments. Since Jan. 11, APH has received 12,000 doses weekly.
More than 306,000 people have registered through APH, with more than 229,000 meeting the current eligibility criteria. Of those, approximately 194,000—or 85%—are still waiting for an appointment. The department does not open up appointment slots until it receives doses from the state in an attempt to avoid cancellations. but this leads to limits the notice APH can provide and often leads to a stressful rush, users told Austonia.
"The vaccine supply is the rate-limiting step in getting everybody vaccinated and getting people protected," Austin-Travis County Deputy Medical Director Dr. Jason Pickett said during a Friday press conference.
But users also report problems using the waitlist. City staff are continuously working on improvements, including registering people who showed up in the early days of the rollout without an appointment and require a second dose and sifting through users who created multiple accounts with different email addresses, APH leadership said at the same event. "We are seeing things run so much better," Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard added.
Having tech problems while pre-registering for the #COVID19 vaccination at https://t.co/uNEZHhMj3c? As our team works to resolve issues, try these tips:
💻 Add .APH to the end of your email to log in
📧 Check your spam
⏰ Try again later
📌 FAQs: https://t.co/dIHOFmAbpG pic.twitter.com/zk5DSjvfaF
— Austin Public Health (@AusPublicHealth) January 28, 2021
The department also established a new queuing system last week: when first dose appointments are available for scheduling, registrants will be added to a queue and receive a place in line with an estimated wait time until they are at the front of the line; at that point, they will have 10 minutes to make an appointment.
Some Austinites have compared APH's waitlist to Williamson County's centralized model, which opened on Feb. 8 and currently has around 190,000 registrants. Public Affairs Manager Connie Odom said the county developed the centralized model so that residents didn't have to register on multiple lists. The central list allows users to update their information and remove themselves if they make an appointment elsewhere. "I think that puts people's minds at ease," she said.
APH does not have such a centralized system. "Since the vaccine distribution and allocation process is very decentralized, it is incredibly difficult to make a single, centralized waitlist that encompasses the availability of hundreds of providers, all of which have different processes for registration," a spokesperson wrote in an email to Austonia.
DSHS has allocated more vaccines to more providers in Travis County than in Williamson County, reflecting differences in population. Although the centralized waitlist is a welcome improvement to some, it is not a panacea.
Hank Ewert, 69, lives in the Brentwood neighborhood and secured a vaccine appointment last week through the Williamson County waitlist. When he arrived at the scheduled time, he and the others in line with him were told their appointments had been rescheduled due to shipping delays caused by the winter storm. "You can't fault them for canceling the vaccinations if there's no vaccine," he said. "But I think they should have texted everyone."
Ewert is worried that the delay may mean it's another month before he is able to get his first shot. He and his wife are now looking for an appointment elsewhere. "I would not mind having two appointments set up at one time," he said. "I know it's going to improve as more and more vaccine gets distributed, but right now the whole availability system seems so fragile that it seems best to try everything."
The second dose shuffle
Another common complaint from eligible Austinites is the waiting game between their first and second shots.
Genevieve McKinster, 81, lives in a senior community in North Austin and received her first shot through APH on Jan. 27. There was a glitch—when she arrived for her 11 a.m. appointment; she was told her appointment wasn't in the system—but luckily she had printed out her appointment details and brought it with her. "I cried when I got my first shot," she said. "I wanted it so bad."
Now McKinster is back where she started, anxiously awaiting a confirmation email for her second appointment. She said she probably spends two to three hours a day checking her inbox and spam folder for an update. "I just don't trust them to email me," she said.
Tilak Khetrapals, 81, feels the same way. The South Austin resident received his first shot on Jan. 20 from APH's Delco Activity Center vaccine site. Nearly six weeks later, he's still waiting to hear about his second dose. "They're not communicating," he said. "That is the problem."
Like many providers, APH is reaching out to patients directly to schedule second dose appointments. Although Pfizer and Moderna recommend three and four weeks between doses, respectively, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the second shot may be administered up to six weeks later.
Although APH generally does not allow for walk-ups, people who received their first dose through the department and have not received information about their second dose within the 42-day period may show up at any APH vaccine site, present their vaccine card and receive a second dose.
Deirdre Strand, 65, lives in South Austin and registered for a vaccine through APH, Austin Regional Clinic and Williamson County, where she ultimately was able to secure an appointment on Feb. 3. "It was an absolutely easy, breezy, very coordinated procedure," she said.
Although Strand has not yet heard about her second shot, she has stopped looking for alternative sites. "I'm not going to spend my entire day waiting to sign up for things and put myself on another waiting list when I truly have been blessed to get my first shot," she said. But she also has a backup plan. If she doesn't hear back from Williamson County about her second shot, she plans to show up at the site where she received her first dose this week. "All I can think of is they must be able to give me my second shot that day," she said.
- Where in Austin COVID-19 vaccines are being sent this week ... ›
- Everything we know about Austin's COVID vaccine rollout - austonia ›
- Vaccine frenzy: Surging waitlists, concert ticket-style protocols ... ›
- Austin healthcare offering COVID-19 vaccine waitlists - austonia ›
- Where in Austin COVID-19 vaccines are being sent this week - austonia ›
- Where in Austin COVID-19 vaccines are being sent this week - austonia ›
- How to make your second COVID vaccine appointment in Austin - austonia ›
- Where in Austin COVID-19 vaccines are being sent this week - austonia ›
With two weeks of rest, a dream team lineup and nearly 20 scoring attempts in the match, Austin FC could have come away with a three-match home win streak against Minnesota United on Saturday.
Instead, missed opportunities and an equally boisterous opponent forced Austin to leave Q2 with a 1-0 loss to Minnesota.
Austin FC brought what appeared to be their strongest lineup to date to the pitch after their two-week break, including breakout stars Sebastian Driussi and Moussa Djitte. But even with dozens of shots between the two teams, the home team couldn't find their footing in the back-and-forth match.
After landing a brace in the team's 2-1 win against Real Salt Lake, Austin's Cecilio Dominguez struck first in the match with a shot on goal in the eighth minute of play. The scoring attempt opened the floodgates—in just three minutes, teammates Moussa Djitte and Sebastian Driussi would follow suit with their own looks at goal.
Just seconds later, Minnesota bounced back with a shot that forced Austin keeper Brad Stuver to jump for his first save, but a bad sendoff from the Verde and Black left Stuver unable to block another as the Loons' Franco Fragapone scored from close range in the 16th minute.
Despite a wide array of scoring attempts—from Djitte's blocked high-fliers to Tomas Pochettino's many near misses— Minnesota would stay on top for the remainder of the match.
A few flops from Minnesota, including a poorly-acted fall from the Loons' Emmanuel Arriaga (which was unrewarded and resulted in an Arriaga yellow card) and a controversial foul given to Moussa Djitte as he nearly made a solo drive to goal added to Austin's woes.
The Verde and Black's final attempt came as Austin center back Julio Cascante placed a close-range header in the final seconds of regulation, but the home team was unable to capitalize on their many attempts.
Both teams shared over 30 shots in the match, with Austin making eight shots on target. Austin FC held over 65% possession and received 12 fouls to Minnesota's nine.
It could soon be impossible for Austin FC to reach the playoffs, but Verde fans still have two chances to catch their team at home. Austin's first season will wrap up with five final matches, including a 4 p.m. Sunday game against the Houston Dynamo on October 24 and an 8 p.m. Wednesday match against Sporting KC on November 4.
80' Austin makes first subs
With just over 10 minutes left in regulation ,Austin FC made some late-game subs, swapping Diego Fagundez for Austinite McKinze Gaines and Sebastian Driussi for forward Jon Gallagher. Both have a history of clutch performances for the team: Gaines scored just 10 minutes in to his first match of the game back in September, while Gallagher was Austin's first scorer at Q2 Stadium.
It's looking more like a draw at best for Austin as the time continues to tick down on the match.
61' Djitte loses chance after controversial call
In the 61st minute of a less-cohesive half for Austin, Moussa Djitte found himself alone near the goal with a good chance at making the home team's first goal. But referees had another ideas, making another controversial call on the Senegalese striker.Refs stopped Djitte's menacing drive after Minnesota's Michael Boxall appeared to flop in a run-in with the striker, curbing Djitte's attempt to boos from the crowd. It's Djitte's second foul of the night and the team's ninth foul in the match. Both clubs host a yellow card, with center back Julio Cascante holding the home team's sole warning call. Minnesota's Emmanuel Reynoso holds the away team's yellow after an obvious flop that left him rolling on the ground for minutes, waiting on a call.
Blown whistles for both sides have slowed the match's tempo and left both clubs reeling as Austin looks for its first goal.
At the half: Austin still can't finish
45' still left to play. pic.twitter.com/39J1XnvvOc— Austin FC (@AustinFC) October 17, 2021
With minutes-long shooting sprees and more shots on goal than Minnesota, Austin could easily have the lead in the match. But each crowd-raising attempt has still been slightly skewed as the home team ends the half with nothing on the board.
In just 45 minutes, both Austin and Minnesota have reached the double-digits in scoring attempts, but Minnesota's ability to infiltrate Austin's penalty box has given them the leg up in the match. The Loons have sometimes found themselves nearly alone alarmingly close to goal, and they've capitalized on their chances with a 16thb minute goal by Franco Fragapane.
Austin FC, however, has not. The club has seen close calls from Dominguez and Driussi, headers from Djitte and near-misses from Tomas Pochettino, but missed opportunities and a few strokes of bad luck have left them scoreless. The team will need to shake their age-old scoring issues if they hope to get back into tonight's game.
16' Minnesota nabs 1-0 lead
Austin may have struck first, but Minnesota won the first points on the board as Franco Fragapane got one past keeper Brad Stuver from a close range in the 16th minute to make it 1-0. The Loons tested Stuver just as Austin did Miller, making two anxiety-inducing shots before Fragapane struck gold.
This goalie-vs.-goalie match has already seen three shots on goal from each team and a relatively quiet midfield as each team dukes it out in the box.
11' Austin tests Minnesota first
Austin FC has taken no time to threaten goal. In a three-minute span, the home team has racked up three shots, two of which are on goal, as the ball bounces between Austin attackers but can't quite find the net.
Dominguez strikes first as he looks to find his third goal in three matches in the eights minute, but Minnesota's Tyler Miller fights back with a clutch save. Djitte then tests Miller just seconds later, while Driussi takes a final shot from farther back that just misses the top left corner.
Austin's Fagundez and Pochettino were the playmakers of the three-minute shooting spree, but the club still came out scoreless. Minnesota soon rebounded with a shot of their own that was blocked by keeper Brad Stuver.
This may be Austin FC's most popular lineup— even the crankiest fans are commending the strong starting XI on Twitter. Tonight's starters are the same as in their win against Salt Lake.
New standouts Moussa Djitte and Sebastian Driussi are in alongside double-scorer Cecilio Dominguez up front, while fan favorite Diego Fagundez, Captain Alex Ring and Designated Player Tomas Pochettino take the midfield.
With Matt Besler still out on concussion protocol, Zan Kolmanic, Jhohan Romana and Julio Cascante take the back along with Hector Jimenez, who is in for right back Nick Lima. As (almost) always, Brad Stuver holds it down in goal.
- All brakes, no gas: Austin FC plummets to bottom of the West in 3-0 ... ›
- Austin FC takes home first win at Q2 with 4-1 victory - austonia ›
- Third time not quite the charm for Austin FC in 2-1 loss to LAFC ... ›
- Despite a comeback attempt, Austin FC falls to rivals FC Dallas in 5 ... ›
- Austin FC's Q2 Stadium is the biggest party in Austin - austonia ›
An Austin-based program manager for Apple Maps and one of two leaders for the #AppleToo activist movement said she has been fired after a suspension.
According to the New York Times, Janneke Parrish said she was put on suspension for several days while the company investigated her activities before she was fired by a human resources employee via phone call on Thursday.
Parrish was under investigation for allegedly leaking a recording of an Apple staff meeting to the media, which she said she didn't do.
The report said the company told Parrish, who is 30, that she was being fired for having deleted files off her company-issued phone and computer before handing them in for examination. Parrish said the files she deleted contained her personal and financial information.
Among the files she deleted were the Robinhood app, which she said was to keep Apple from seeing "how much money I lost investing in GameStop," the Pokemon Go app and screenshots of programming bugs she was fixing.
Parrish said she believes Apple was retaliating against her efforts in organizing #AppleToo, a group of employees working to expose the company's "culture of secrecy" that has been "faced disproportionately by our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues from minoritized racial, gender and historically marginalized groups of people."
Parrish had been publishing weekly accounts of workplace problems that had been shared anonymously with her from other employees, though she did not verify employment on all of them. The accounts she received were in the hundreds, so Parrish said she was hopeful her termination would lead to some justice within the company.
Employees at tech giants have been more outspoken than usual in recent months—with former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaking out against her former employer—and Parrish said the company's desire to keep under wraps has eroded trust by discouraging employees to come forward with issues like harassment or wage disparity.
Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock commented on the matter: "We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters."
Additionally, the email detailing her termination, which was obtained by the New York Times, said Apple had determined that Parrish "engaged in conduct in violation of Apple policies including, but not limited to, interfering with an investigation by deleting files on your company provided equipment after being specifically instructed not to do so."
- Thousands of Austin's tech workers will soon be back in the office ›
- The Oprah Conversation has Emmanuel Acho's 'uncomfortable ... ›
- Apple shipping iphones from Austin domain northside store - austonia ›
- See Austin's new Apple campus under construction - austonia ›