calling the shots

City of Houston launches online registration for free COVID vaccinations

The City of Houston is making it easier to get free COVID-19 vaccinations. Photo courtesy of ABC13

Since COVID-19 vaccinations arrived in Houston, locals have been clamoring for the inoculations. Now, the City of Houston has made it easier for those at highest risk to receive the injections.

The Houston Health Department launched online registration on January 4 for residents at highest risk of coronavirus disease to schedule appointments to receive free vaccinations. (A Spanish version is anticipated to launch as well, according to the city.)

Those in Phase 1B of the State of Texas' vaccine distribution are advised to use the new service. This includes those 65 and older or 18 and older with at least one chronic medical condition putting them at increased risk of severe illness or death.

Frontline healthcare workers — classified as Phase 1A in the distribution plan — who have yet to receive the vaccine also are eligible to sign up to get the shot through the health department, per a press release. The department currently offers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. More information can also be found here.

Meanwhile, appointments are also available through the health department's COVID-19 call center by calling 832-393-4220. The call center is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 am to 4 pm and until 5 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Users will receive an appointment time and the location of the vaccination clinic site during the registration process. Staffers will screen visitors and direct them to a secure area to receive the vaccination and monitor them for any adverse reaction for 15 minutes, according to the city.

"The Houston Health Department is doing a phenomenal job getting the vaccine directly to people," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "The new online registration, in addition to the call center, will make the process more efficient. While there is great public demand for the COVID-19 vaccine, there is also a lot of hesitancy. I understand the concerns, but I encourage all eligible Houstonians to get vaccinated to help stop the spread of the deadly virus."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

5G could be taking over Texas — and Houston is leading the way. Photo via Getty Images

Based on one key measure, Houston sits at the forefront of a telecom revolution that could spark a regional economic impact of more than $30 billion.

Data published recently by the Texas Comptroller's Office points out that as of last November and December, Houston led all cities in Texas for the number of so-called "small cells." Small cells are a key component in the rollout of ultra-high-speed 5G wireless communication throughout the Houston area and the country.

As the Texas Comptroller's Office explains, small cells are low-powered antennas that communicate wirelessly via radio waves. They're usually installed on existing public infrastructure like street signs or utility poles, instead of the big communication towers that transmit 4G signals.

The comptroller's tally shows Houston had approved 5,455 small-cell sites as of the November-December timeframe. That dwarfs the total number of sites (1,948) for the state's second-ranked city, Dallas.

"Houston is in the vanguard of small cell permitting in Texas, and not just because it's the state's largest city; advocates have lauded its proactive approach to 5G. Other cities, particularly smaller ones, are lagging well behind," the Comptroller's Office notes.

According to CTIA, a trade group for the wireless communications industry, 5G holds the promise to deliver an economic impact of $30.3 billion in the Houston area and create 93,700 jobs. The group says industries such as health care, energy, transportation, e-commerce, and logistics stand to benefit from the emergence of 5G.

"Maintaining world-class communications infrastructure is a requirement for success in a rapidly changing global economy. Small cells and fiber technology are the key foundational components for network densification and robust 5G. Cities like Houston that have embraced the need for this infrastructure will see the benefits of 5G faster than others," Mandy Derr, government affairs director at Houston-based communications infrastructure REIT Crown Castle International Corp. and a member of the Texas 5G Alliance, tells InnovationMap.

Derr says leaders in Houston have embraced the importance of small-cell technology through "reasonable and effective" regulations and processes aimed at boosting 5G capabilities. Three major providers of wireless service — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — offer 5G to customers in the Houston area.

"More small cells and fiber provide greater and faster access for the masses, enabling the connectivity that is essential to our businesses today — whether it's accepting payments on a mobile card reader, completing a sale on the go, or reliably reaching consumers where they are," Derr says.

In a blog post, Netrality Data Centers, which operates a data center in Houston, proclaims that Houston is shaping up to be a hub of 5G innovation.

"Houston has always been on the frontline," Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a 5G roundtable discussion in 2019. "It is who we are. It is in our DNA. We are a leading city. We didn't wait for somebody else to go to the moon. Or to be the energy capital of the world. Or the largest medical center in the world. But you don't stay at the front if you don't continue to lead."

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