PHILADELPHIA – The next big auto race at Dover International Speedway (DIS) is scheduled for Friday, May 14, 2021. But it’s the race to get Delaware residents vaccinated against COVID-19 that has kept the speedway parking lot abuzz and full this past week. Full of federal and state personnel staff eager to serve and saturated with vaccine recipients grateful for the lifesaving shot. Together, it has created a recipe for good will, while generating an invitation for good karma.
“Dover International Speedway is pleased to have hosted this vaccination event,” said Mike Tatoian, Speedway president and CEO. “We know how much COVID-19 has impacted this community, and the nation as a whole, and it is crucial that we all do our part to boost our public health numbers.” We thank all of the personnel who managed and executed the drive-thru lines carefully, efficiently and in a very friendly manner throughout this process. The collaboration and coordination that took place between the various agencies is a model that should be emulated throughout our country – it was simply impressive!”
The location officially opened on Sunday, February 21, 2021, as the first federally run vaccination site in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 3. In partnership with the state of Delaware, residents in need of second dosages of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID vaccine enjoyed the luxury of a drive-thru site.
Make no mistake, the selection of DIS for this unprecedented mission had everything to do with need, speed, efficiency, and proximity. Centrally located, travel to the site could be completed in just over an hour from the furthest state locations. Yet, its these very attributes that made working this mission personally satisfying for both FEMA personnel deployed to support and welcoming for those in need of the vaccine.
Catharine Fan, a retired (28 years) Police Sergeant with the Philadelphia Police Department and relative newcomer to FEMA, works daily as the Disaster Operations Team Lead, with Hazard Mitigation for Region 3. Fan deployed to Delaware to support the COVID-19 vaccination mission, serving as the Assistant Screener Task Force Leader- responsible for the accuracy of registration documents. Fan, who is Chinese American; was able to assist when a Chinese couple expressed a need for language help in line for vaccination.
“It was very comforting to this couple that we spoke the same language,” Fan said. “She expressed to me her gratitude for not only seeing a friendly face, but an appreciation for someone who understands the culture. They wanted to take me out to lunch,” said Fan with a smile. Fan agrees, in their culture; helping this elderly couple was her duty. A duty not just to herself, but one that honors her own family. “It was simply good karma,” Fan said.
To date, the Delaware Department of Education has worked to help vaccinate more than 4,000 K-12 personnel and roughly 700 childcare providers.
“We are extremely grateful for this partnership with FEMA, Delaware Emergency Management (DEMA), Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and Dover International Speedway enabling us to provide second doses to thousands of Delawareans and first doses to childcare providers,” said Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “I want to thank the commitment and professionalism all of those who have spent countless hours supporting Delaware this past week, in making the experience for our residents so positive. Even as more people are vaccinated in the coming months, we urge residents not to let your guards down. Keep masking up, staying distant, washing your hands, and getting tested on a regular basis.”
“FEMA is very proud of what we’ve accomplished here in Dover,” said Tim Pheil, Region 3 Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer. With over 200 personnel deployed to support this mission, we were able to vaccinate 15,840 individuals. This number is a positive step toward ending this pandemic and a direct reflection of the collaboration needed to achieve it.
"Multiple sectors worked together to create a well-executed event", said Delaware Emergency Management Agency Director A.J. Schall. "We extend our thanks to all the partners that assisted with this week-long event; a small step closer to beating COVID-19."
Janice Barlow, Acting Regional Administrator for FEMA Region 3 stated, “It is the strong partnerships with our State counterparts and other federal partners, that elevated the success of the COVID-19 vaccination site in Delaware. Although FEMA trains and prepares daily for catastrophic events, manmade and natural disasters; we understand nothing takes the place of meaningful partnerships. I’m grateful for the AmeriCorps volunteers who graciously gave of their time, our other federal partners, our state partners, and the community. Without their help, we could not have done this. Together, we will continue to overcome this pandemic, while working toward building a better future.
FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters. FEMA Region 3’s jurisdiction includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/femaregion3 and on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/femaregion3