The Indy 500 will not take place until May 30, but Indianapolis Motor Speedway is opening for a special reason. The massive venue will serve as the host site for mass COVID-19 vaccinations. The move coincides with the state of Indiana opening vaccine availability to people ages 16 and older.
According to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, IMS officials and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb "believe" 96,000 people can get through and receive their vaccinations in the 16-day period. The Indiana Department of Health will try to achieve this goal by administering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot vaccine. The drive will take place from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 1-3, 13-18, and 24-30.
It's Our Shot, Hoosiers! Let's beat #COVID19 as one Indiana team!March 24, 2021
"As we draw closer and closer to Indy 500 Race Day, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is happy to once again stand arm-in-arm with the State of Indiana and IU Health and encourage Hoosiers to come to this iconic facility for a COVID-19 vaccination," said J. Douglas Boles, IMS President. "As Indiana opens availability to an even wider age group, we know that race fans and Hoosiers will take advantage of driving through the IMS tunnel to get the vaccine and keep our health trends racing in the right direction. We remain grateful to Governor Holcomb and Dr. Box for their leadership and allowing IMS to be part of this important effort."
Holcomb announced on Tuesday evening changes to the existing mask policies. He will make the mask mandate an advisory, starting on April 6. However, the face coverings will still remain mandatory in all state buildings and facilities. Additionally, the face coverings will be mandatory in vaccination and coronavirus testing sites until further notice. K-12 Schools will keep the current requirements for the remainder of the school year.
Roger Penske, the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, met with the media on Monday and provided an outlook for fan attendance at the Indy 500. He shied away from providing a "definitive" number but expressed optimism about a crowd in the six figures. Penske said that the goal is 250,000 people while also saying that IMS would serve as the site of a mass vaccination drive.
"It's way down and I think with that [the crowd] will hopefully be a big number," Penske said. "That's what our hope is, but what we've done in the meantime we've been doing vaccinations. We did 16,000 in three days and we're getting ready to do a mass vaccination in April."