The state’s largest continuous COVID-19 vaccination site cranked into action Wednesday in a former department store space in Greensboro — a shopping mall pandemic battleground designed to treat 3,000 patients a day.
Cars began snaking through the parking lot off of Interstate 40 at 8 a.m., guided by airmen manning posts outside long, white tents. Inside, patients filed into a cleared-out section of Dillard’s before the mall even opened, taking their shots from teams staffed by the Air Force and National Guard.
The process ran smoothly enough that Sharron Mabry drove more than an hour from Raleigh, unable to score an appointment closer to home. She reported a problem-free signup and roughly 20 minutes in the store.
“This is a well-oiled machine here,” she said. “It’s the frickin’ Air Force. I’m a wedding planner, and I’m all about the logistics. I don’t mind the drive. It’s just gas in the car. They make it easy-breezy.”
NC’s largest vaccine site
The vaccination site at Four Seasons Town Centre qualifies as the state’s largest by dosage, the only site so far set up by the federal government. Operating 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with more than 100 federal and state workers, it has the capacity for more than 20,000 vaccinations a week over the next two months.
Uniformed airmen and guardsmen gave out the Pfizer shots, recorded the data and directed patients back through the mall past Zales jewelry.
The airmen arrived from all over the country, including Capt. Anthony Federico, a pharmacist from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
“Day one,” he said Wednesday. “Delivering the vaccines to each station. We’re seeing everything going as it should.”
The larger Greensboro site aims to reach more minority communities that have reported unequal distribution, though Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, reported 20% of vaccine shots have gone to Black patients in recent weeks.
Freshly vaccinated patients reported signing up for required appointments easily, having failed at churches closer to home.
‘These people are fantastic’
In High Point, Rick McAbee tried at several drug stores and a university event with no luck. In Greensboro, he called and found an appointment on the first day.
“When he gave me the shot, he said ‘OK,’ and I said, ‘Are you going to gave me the shot?’’” McAbee said. “I didn’t feel it. These people are fantastic.”
Though McAbee said he hadn’t worried too much about getting COVID-19, he got the vaccine “because I thought it was the right thing to do.”
“Peace of mind? I never had a great concern,” he said. “I felt like God would take care of me.”
McAbee wore a Duke University T-shirt and Blue Devils mask, which the FEMA employee assisting him noticed — and wasn’t a fan of. The ACC Tournament ran for its second day at the coliseum practically across the street, which is also a Guilford County vaccination site.
McAbee appreciated the FEMA worker’s good humor, and the employee offered up one last jab: “Just don’t wear that mask when you come back a second time.”
How to make appointment at Greensboro vaccine site
The federal government’s mass vaccination site is at Four Seasons Town Centre, just off Interstate 40 in Greensboro. Appointments can be made for indoor or drive-through treatment at GSOmassvax.org or by calling 888-675-4567. The space operates daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will be open for two months.