MOUNT PLEASANT, South Carolina -- When a South Carolina drive-thru coronavirus vaccine clinic got backed up, leaving people waiting for hours, the town mayor decided to call in a professional for help: a Chick-fil-A manager.
Local hospitals in Mount Pleasant opened the clinic on January 22 for residents eligible to receive the first shots of Covid-19 vaccine. But shortly after the drive-thru opened, the computer system handling registrations went down, causing hundreds of people to wait in heavy traffic.
That's when Jerry Walkowiak, the manager of a nearby Chick-fil-A, stepped in to save the day.
"When I heard about it, I called Jerry and asked if he would come help us out," Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie told CNN. "After he looked it over, he said, 'There's your problem right there. It's backed up because you have one person checking people in.' Then he showed us how to do it right."
With the help of a few additional volunteers, Walkowiak transformed the messy traffic jam into a smooth operation, reducing the hours-long wait to just 15 minutes.
More than 1,000 people received the vaccine that day, Haynie said. When everyone returns for their second dose on February 12, Walkowiak will be back to help manage the drive-thru.
"At Chick-fil-A, we're about being the most caring company in the world, and when Mayor Haynie asked us to come over, we took a look at what was their drive-thru system," Walkowiak told news station WCBD.
"We saw a little hiccup in their drive-thru system, and we needed some more people, so we gathered some of the wonderful Rotary volunteers and went down there and just was able to expedite the registration part."
More than 29 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States, according to data published Saturday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the US still has a long way to go before the pandemic is over, Haynie hopes his town's experience will encourage others to get vaccinated and help with vaccine efforts.
"Jerry got a phone call and dropped everything because he knows getting this vaccine out is a game changer," Haynie said. "This is what the light at the end of the long Covid tunnel looks like."