January 28, 2021

Supply, communication stymie Rillito Park vaccination plan

Pima County envisions horse track as vaccination center.

Rillito Downs Fog and Rain 7-23-20 HERO Fog gathers in the mountains after the first big monsoon rain of the season. July 23,2020
Christopher Conover/AZPM

Pima County officials hope to use Rillito Park, the site of the county's horse track, for a different kind of race -- the race to vaccinate everyone against COVID-19. But that effort has been stymied by a lack of resources and by miscommunication.

The state has set up a 24-hour drive-through vaccination point at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, with capacity to deliver 6,000 shots per day. But nothing of that size exists in Pima County. State Health Director Cara Christ said the county declined state help setting up a point of distribution.

Not so, says county health director Theresa Cullen. She says Pima County welcomes state help setting up a vaccination "pod" at Rillito Park, to deliver up to five thousand shots a day, when enough vaccine and enough staffing are available to keep it going for the long haul. "We don't need to stand up Rillito for (only) two weeks. If we have enough staff, we could stand up Rillito through the end of June, so we're looking at 5 months with high availability and high efficiency so that we can meet at higher mark," Dr. Cullen said in a call with media Thursday.

Tuesday County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wrote to Christ, apologizing for any miscommunication, and saying the county would appreciate whatever help the state can provide.

The massive Glendale site was funded in part by a private grant, with staffing help from the National Guard.

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