Under a cold, punishing rainfall that would have likely postponed a race at Dover International Speedway, it was full speed ahead on Monday, February 22, 2021, for a mass COVID-19 vaccination center put on by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in partnership with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA).
While 1,500 people received their second COVID shots on Sunday, Monday was the first of five straight days in which 3,000 people are expected to get their second doses. The site is appointment-only.
FEMA Region 3 Federal Coordinating Officer Tim Pheil said with 200 FEMA personnel and volunteers from organizations like AmeriCorps descending on Dover, last week's winter weather nationwide caused him concern.
"It really had an impact on me saying to myself: 'are we going to get the staff here in time?'" said Pheil. "It really was a matter of counting the numbers to ensure the staff would arrive on time."
Pheil said the mass drive-thru vaccination clinic, the first of its kind in the region, has been a study in collaboration.
"Often we don't see collaboration at this level," said Pheil. "I got introduced to Jim Hosfelt here at the raceway through [DEMA] Director [A.J.] Schaal, and he said 'hey, go out and see Jim and see if we can set up a vaccination center.'
"With that contact through DEMA, we started on a partnership with a Delaware industry that's very famous."
Pheil said the process then expanded to include the Division of Public Health and the Delaware Department of Transportation.
"What we have is an example for other states to follow and for other agencies to follow," said Pheil.
The operation received rave reviews from drivers and passengers passing through for their second shot.
"I think it's been fabulous," said Laura Beitman of Newark. "It's very well laid out. I like the signs on the roadway getting in here because I wasn't sure. It's been efficient, it's been great."
Linda Kopishke said the process was amazing compared to her first vaccination at a state DMV.
"This is 100 percent better," she said.
She teared up when thinking about what the second dose means for her and her family.
"It feels really good to be able to think about going back to doing things, seeing children and grandchildren," said Kopishke. "I am incredibly excited. I'm very thankful."