'Historical' Richmond Raceway vaccine clinic has been 'phenomenal,' nurse says on final day

Incident Commander: We're moving on 'knowing that good work was done'
Posted at 6:58 PM, May 27, 2021

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The Richmond Raceway, once one of the busiest vaccination sites in the state, closed its doors Thursday after its 66th mass clinic because of waning demand for the COVID vaccine.

The site has been open since January, pushing over 160,000 doses of the vaccine into people's arms.

Michelle Cosel has been on the frontlines since the clinic's beginning in the Old Dominion Building at the raceway.

"We’ve used approximately 14,000 resources, and we’ve totaled approximately 110,000 personnel hours out here," she said.

Richmond Raceway Vaccine Clinic Incident Commander Zach Zellner
Richmond Raceway Vaccine Clinic Incident Commander Zach Zellner

Richmond Raceway Vaccine Clinic Incident Commander Zach Zellner said more than 1,000 volunteers and workers staffed the clinic.

"We had days where we had more than 400 on site," Zellner recalled.

Led by officials with Henrico County, church volunteers provided meals while members of the National Guard and contractors provided crowd control.

Luther Branch, who worked for a contractor, primarily helped folks after they got their shot.

"Most of the people were happy, you know, because now they knew that this was the way out and then we could eventually mask off and get to this point right here," Branch said.

Nurse Margaret Nuckols with Henrico County Public Schools.
Nurse Margaret Nuckols with Henrico County Public Schools.

Nurse on Henrcio mass vaccination clinic: 'It's been historical'

Margaret Nuckols, a school nurse for Henrico County Public Schools, led efforts handling and administering the vaccines.

"It's been phenomenal. It's been historical," Nuckols reflected. "The elderly, we started with them getting vaccinated, and them leaving emotional because they would get to see their grandchildren at Easter."

Nuckols also remembered the emotional moments she shared while vaccinating patients. Whether it was calming folks anxious about the vaccine or listening as they shared stories of personal tragedy.

"[They] just needed somebody to talk with them and just bring that peacefulness and just be with them while they had other things that they were dealing with," Nuckols said.

Brooke Furcron
Brooke Furcron

People like Brooke Furcron, who went from intern to a full-time position while still managing a full course load at VCU, worked on the logistical or IT side of things.

"This is one of the biggest operations, you know, that most people have ever worked in their careers and to be starting out with this," Furcron said. "It's something that I'll be able to take with me... Everybody has worked so hard."

Zellner also pointed out that one of the clinic's additional benefits, beyond administering the vaccine, was training more people in emergency management should the need arise in the future.

Cosel called the clinic's final day bittersweet, but was enthusiastic about everything that had been accomplished over the five months.

"It's exciting that this is over and that we are just able to move on knowing that good work was done," Zellner added.

Final day of the mass vaccination clinic at Richmond Raceway Thursday, May 27, 2021.

Woman: Getting vaccinated at clinic was 'very efficient, quick'

Kathy Fields was one of many who stopped by Thursday morning, to get her second dose of the vaccine at the raceway's infield garage.

"This was very efficient, quick, no wait times," Fields said. “It feels good to have it all over and done with.”

Margi Whitney said Thursday she was "grateful" and "thankful" after being inoculated.

As vaccine workers hand out their final doses here at the raceway, Fields, like many others, is looking forward to her first dose of overdue freedom.

“Vacation, vacation, vacation," Fields said.

Health leaders with Richmond and Henrico Health District said people can sign up through pharmacies, doctors' offices or grocery stores to get vaccinated or to receive their second dose.

Virginians age 12+ are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-registration is no longer required, so go to Vaccine Finderto search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).