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Kroger Field transforms into mass COVID vaccination site

UK fans were allowed back into Kroger Field after only being allowed in at 20% capacity for football season. Only this time, they were there for a different reason.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — When UK HealthCare planned to open a mass COVID-19 vaccination site, health leaders wanted a place that can hold a lot of people indoors and has adequate parking.

They settled on the University of Kentucky’s football stadium, Kroger Field.

Tuesday the site opened after appointment requests went live online Friday. From Friday to Saturday night, 50,000 people requested a spot.

Vaccines have been very efficient – with volunteers getting 80 to 85 people in and out every 20 minutes Tuesday.

“Our goal is to be just around 2,000 a day,” UK Police Chief Joe Monroe said. “It might be a little under, it might be a little over. It depends on the amount of appointments and doses we have for that day.”

The process, from conception to opening up, was a team effort between UK HealthCare, athletics, the main campus and the state. The team says the field was the logical option to get the most vaccines out quickly.

The site, which is in the stadium’s club lounge, took about a week to plan and three days to set up. There are 30 stations, where first responders, educators and health care workers can come to get their shot.

It’s the first major university to open a mass vaccination site like this.

“We are sharing our information with the state,” Monroe said. “We’ve had conversations with Jim Gray and Dr. Stack to share how our process is going so it can be replicated across the state in different venues.”

Seeing the vaccine site set up in Kroger Field was new for Fayette County teacher Saralyn Kingsolver.

“My husband and I are season ticket holders, so we spend lots of days in the fall here,” Kingsolver said.

Kingsolver is a special education teacher. She misses her students and is ready to get back into the classroom. In fact – perhaps just ready as she is on game day.

“The excitement is the same. I’m probably just as excited to get my vaccine as I am to get a UK win,” Kingsolver said.  

Like Jefferson County, Fayette County Schools have not been in-person since March. A big focus of this Kroger Field clinic is vaccinating K – 12 teachers.

Right now, this site is just for people in phase 1A or 1B in Fayette County or some surrounding counties. But once the state enters new phases – UK hopes this will also be a space where people in the university community can get a vaccine. 

In the parking lot of Kroger Field, there is COVID testing happening. UK is studying drive-thru vaccine sites throughout the country. Chief Monroe said they seeing what they can learn from that model, if they decide to scale up to that, but don't have any immediate plans to open one.

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