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U.S. Secretary of Labor Visits IMS To Promote Further COVID-19 Vaccination

United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, June 24 as the National Vaccine Month of Action tour bus made a stop at the Racing Capital of the World.

As a part of the visit, IMS hosted a pop-up vaccine clinic with IU Health near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. IU Health nurses worked during a two-hour window to give COVID-19 vaccines to a line a Hoosiers who registered online to receive their vaccine.

“This place where we are today, this historic racetrack that normally has 200,000-plus people here watching races, we need to get back to that so people feel safe coming out,” Walsh said. “The Biden administration is doing everything we can alongside great partners like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As we look ahead this summer, we have a great opportunity to ensure that Americans in every community can celebrate the freedom from the virus.”

The visit was a part of the White House’s “We Can Do This” National Vaccination Tour, which highlights the ease and importance of getting vaccinated and recognizes the vital work being done in local communities to administer vaccinations. IMS served as a mass vaccination site this spring, providing shots to more than 90,000 people between March and May.

“Certainly, as Secretary of Labor, what we want to do is get America back to work and bring our economy back up and running,” Walsh said. “We want to be able to be sure that people are safe in the workplace, so I’m here today to encourage people to get vaccinated, because we want to make sure we get people to a safe workplace.”

Walsh was led on the racetrack by IMS President J. Douglas Boles and 2013 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Tony Kanaan. Walsh took a lap around the famed 2.5-mile oval in the blue National Vaccine Month of Action tour bus before stopping at the world-famous Yard of Bricks to give remarks about frontline workers’ tireless efforts to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boles and Kanaan thanked Walsh for his visit, and Kanaan presented him with a milk bottle in honor of the 85-year-old tradition of the Indy 500 winner drinking milk in Victory Circle. Kanaan didn’t drink the milk last May, but he finished 10th in The American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“What we did this year was remarkable, thanks to (healthcare workers) being in the frontlines for putting yourselves at risk to make us feel comfortable,” Kanaan said. “This year, thanks to you guys, we had 135,000 people, and it was an amazing race. We can use that to send a message. I’m a father of four, and the first thing I told Doug was, ‘Whenever I can get that shot, I’m in.’ I encourage all of you to do it so we can come back here next year and have freedom.”

After his remarks, Kanaan insisted that himself, Boles and Walsh stand alongside the team of frontline workers in attendance to participate in another IMS tradition: kissing the bricks, which the winners of major events at IMS do with their teams to celebrate winning at the largest sports seating facility in the world.

After the group kissed the bricks, Walsh momentarily paused from his job and became a tourist, he quipped, taking photos on his phone of the Yard of Bricks. His tour continued after his remarks on the IMS main straightaway when Kanaan gave Walsh a feel for his day job, taking him for laps around the Speedway in a Chevrolet Camaro.

IMS continued to serve as a mass vaccination site during the Month of May, with a clinic across the street from the famed racetrack as well as three locations inside the facility that ticketholders could receive their COVID-19 vaccination at on Race Day for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

On May 30, the Indy 500 returned to its Memorial Day weekend date with 40 percent of capacity and 135,000 spectators in attendance. It was the largest event held in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“We were excited to be the world’s largest event since the pandemic began,” Boles said. “We did it in a responsible way, working with the City of Indianapolis and State of Indiana to make sure we positioned people properly. More importantly, we were happy, and I think this is the reason the secretary is here, is to remind people in this country how important it is to get vaccinated, even now as things are going in a different direction in terms of numbers. That urgency we felt two or three months ago might not feel the same, but it is just as important.”

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