Looking back, racing foward; 366 days after first COVID case


INDIANAPOLIS — Around this time last year, Indiana was entering the first stages of the pandemic. A year later, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is taking on a new meaning by vaccinating thousands of Hoosiers.

“To me, it’s not a matter of if it comes but when it comes,” said IU Health Methodist Hospital’s infectious disease physician Cole Beeler said on March 5, 2020.

Little did Dr. Beeler and Hoosiers know a day later, on March 6, the first COVID case would be confirmed.

“It was still abstract,” said Dr. Beeler.

For the past year, he’s been educating and leading healthcare workers and one of the biggest hospitals in Marion County.

“Our healthcare community is spread thin right now to be 100% honest with you,” admitted Beeler.

The first death was March 15. On March 23, a stay-at-home order was put in place by Governor Eric Holcomb.

“We’re going to be shuttering businesses and losing jobs every day that this goes on,” said Barbara Quandt, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Normal life was altered and adjusted unlike ever before. Hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers began working from home and many others were left without work.

“At that point in time, the real difficulty was dealing with the fear that was going on surrounding the unknown not just amongst the community but also in our healthcare workers themselves,” said Dr. Beeler.

Indiana essentially shutdown like the rest of the country. By the end of summer, masks became mandatory.

“Now we have to hunker down in a different way which is why wearing masks will become the fashion of the day,” said Governor Eric Holcomb.

And for the first time ever there were no engines roaring during the month of May.

A year later, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been transformed into one of the first mass vaccination sites in Marion County. Experts say the rapid rollout of vaccines will be the biggest success story throughout this pandemic.

“It shows that as a community and as a scientific community coming together, we’re able to build the technology in order to help develop these really strong effective and evidence based vaccines,” said Dr. Beeler.

“We love entertaining folks through racing, but this one was a really important thing to do for everybody’s health,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles said.

IMS took center stage in the healthcare world when it comes to eradicating this virus.

“It is pretty unique! You get to go through the Indy car garage area, then you actually get your vaccine inside one of the old F1 garages right alongside pit lane and then you roll down pit lane,” said Boles.

Nearly 17,000 thousand shots were given at IMS this weekend and more than 660,000 positive cases now on a decline.

“All of the stats the use to kind of gage how well we’re doing in the pandemic are improving right now,” said Dr. Beeler.

And as the sun sets there’s light in each and every dose. Meanwhile healthcare workers are preparing for another day in this fight and potentially another pandemic while using the lessons from this one.

“COVID is going to be part of our life for a long time,” said Dr. Beeler.

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