Weather Bullies US Cities, but Not Vaccination Volunteers

Julie H. Case

Greyshirts from Texas to Wisconsin braved bitter cold and wild weather this week to get shots done.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of near-zero temperatures could stay Team Rubicon’s vaccine couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds this week. From Wisconsin to Los Angeles to Texas and Florida, hundreds of Greyshirts helped hundreds of thousands of Americans get vaccinated all during some extreme winter weather events across the country.

In Texas, even as power outages and record cold shut down many other vaccination sites during this week’s winter storm, Greyshirts at two vaccination sites in Midland shuffled their boots, blew on their hands, and helped keep the COVID-19 vaccines flowing.

Volunteers direct traffic at a vaccination site in Midland, TX.

Volunteer Jarrett Brown didn’t pack for snow when he deployed from his home state to Texas to help with the vaccination efforts, but that’s what he got. “I was not expecting an Indiana winter in Texas,” said Brown. Still, when the winter storm hit he and other Team Rubicon volunteers—or Greyshirts—rolled up their sleeves, grabbed spade shovels and brooms, and cleared out enough snow for those coming to get vaccinated to get into the Horseshoe Arena vaccination site.

While both the Horseshoe Arena site and Team Rubicon’s second site at Golf Course Road Church of Christ were closed on President’s Day due to weather, veteran volunteers didn’t stop working. Instead, they helped stand up a warming center at Horseshoe Arena. By Tuesday, they were back directing traffic—and ignoring the wind and freezing cold—when both the Horseshoe Arena and Church of Christ vaccination sites reopened. Vaccinations have continued every day since at both sites, with Greyshirts shepherding some 1,300 to 1,500 Texans through the vaccination process at the Church of Christ site and roughly 1,000 people a day at the Horseshoe Arena site.

Going North to Get Shots Done

Wisconsinites might be more prepared for the cold, but it doesn’t always make it more pleasant. “It’s a balmy 2 or 3 degrees,” said Greyshirt Troy Bollinger while assisting at Jefferson Health Department’s vaccination site. Still, serving locally may have kept him warm. After nearly 20 deployments with Team Rubicon—including responses to Hurricanes Florence, Michael, Laura, and Sally—it has been a chance to finally deploy in his own community.

A Team Rubicon volunteer assists with traffic control at a Jefferson, WI, vaccination site.

Since first helping stand up the Jefferson vaccination site in late January, Greyshirts have been helping get roughly 400 people a day through the clinic.

Some Like A Hot Shot

Meanwhile, in Florida, volunteers took on temperatures of a different type. While they spent last week shepherding traffic in 40- to 50-degree weather—cold for the Sunshine State—in DeLand this week temperatures spiked, at last, into the 80s. Perfect for Greyshirts shepherding vaccination traffic through the Volusia County Fairgrounds.

Except for when it wasn’t. America’s deep freeze hit Florida, too, just not in the same way. “Yesterday and today we were supposed to have operations, but our vaccine did not arrive. It is stranded up north,” explained Greyshirt Andrew Lenze. So, instead of helping at the drive-thru vaccination clinic five days this week, they helped on one. And, this time in a new way. When the county opened up indoor vaccinations, Greyshirts pivoted to not only directing traffic but also parking cars and delivering wheelchairs and walkers to those with mobility issues. Still, the numbers stayed the same indoors and out: roughly 900 people got vaccinated at the indoor clinic.

Next week, when the vaccine does arrive, Greyshirts and volunteers will switch to something altogether new: a twofer. On the one hand, they’ll be parking cars and shuttling walkers at the walk-in site. On the other side of the fairgrounds, they’ll be back to directing traffic and pointing those getting vaccinated into the right lanes. The county expects the new routine will mean about 1,800 injections a day—roughly 900 at each of the Fairground sites.


So, while the weather may have put a brake on vaccinations for some, it certainly didn’t hamper work for most Greyshirts. In total, Team Rubicon volunteers assisted at vaccination sites in 28 U.S. cities this week. In total, Greyshirts have helped get nearly 155,000 shots in American arms.

A Team Rubicon volunteer assists a woman to her car after being vaccinated in Jefferson, WI.

Want to fuel veteran volunteer’s vaccination mission? Here’s how.

Want to help get Americans vaccinated? Register to volunteer.


Read More Stories