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University Mall mass vaccine site will relocate near Raymond James Stadium

Officials cite logistical issues for the move, but details are still being worked out.
Motorists wait in line to enter the COVID-19 vaccination site Feb. 11 at the University Mall parking garage in Tampa. The state Division of Emergency Management confirmed it is working to relocate the site to a location near Raymond James Stadium.
Motorists wait in line to enter the COVID-19 vaccination site Feb. 11 at the University Mall parking garage in Tampa. The state Division of Emergency Management confirmed it is working to relocate the site to a location near Raymond James Stadium. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 22
Updated Feb. 22

Acknowledging recent problems with the state-supported vaccination site at Tampa’s University Mall, officials confirmed Monday they are working to move COVID-19 vaccinations to a site near Raymond James Stadium.

Details are still being ironed out, but Florida Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Samantha Bequer said the site will likely move sometime next week.

Bequer said she’s not sure whether the University Mall site will be used for anything. She said that conducting mass vaccinations “wasn’t logistically working at that site” and that the state wanted to make sure problems with long lines and confusion seen earlier this month don’t happen again.

On Feb. 11, senior citizens waited in line for hours in traffic that backed up more than two miles at one point as the vaccine site became overwhelmed and as the process was slowed over confusion about whether people needed appointments to get their second doses.

About 3,500 people received doses on that day alone, and long lines continued for several more days after that.

Related: Long lines, seniors turned away amid confusion at University Mall COVID-19 vaccine site

Vaccinations have continued at the University Mall site since then and seem to be moving more smoothly.

Chris Bowen, chief development strategist for RD Management, owners of the mall property, said the vaccination site appears to have stabilized. He said he was told the state had backed off to doing fewer than 1,500 vaccinations per day, which is a better fit for the site’s capacity.

Bowen also said he had been told that the mall site would be shifting to doing coronavirus testing, but added that was subject to change and he did not have a timeline for when that might happen.

The University Mall vaccination site was originally opened by Hillsborough County as one of its vaccine sites but was taken over as a state-supported site about a month ago.

Bequer said she expects to have more information later this week about how the state-supported vaccine sites will be changing in Hillsborough County and whether any of that could affect the coronavirus testing that is currently being offered at Raymond James Stadium. She stressed that testing and vaccinations will still continue to be offered.

Brian Ford, chief operating officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said current discussions focus on putting the vaccination site at a parking lot across the street from the stadium, where the old Tampa Bay Mall used to sit. An entrance is planned off Himes Avenue, he said.

Ford also emphasized that details and decisions are still being hammered out.

“All we’re doing is trying to be good community partners,” he said.

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