Health officials concerned about fans attending Indy 500 as COVID-19 cases rise

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UPDATE (Aug. 4, 2020)– IMS announced that the 2020 Indy 500 will run without fans. Read more here.

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SPEEDWAY — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s official healthcare provider is calling for IMS to change their plans for the Indy 500. 

IU Health is concerned about the thousands of people coming into the state when the number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise. 

“There’s a lot riding on holding this event beyond just the social side of it. There’s the economic side of it and the political side. There’s a lot of factors at play,” said Butler University Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Christopher Stobart.

Stobart said he can’t tell the public whether Marion County should host the Indy 500 but did say we should look at what happened in Florida after beaches reopened as an example.  

“Now Florida has turned into one of the leading hotspots in this country, and a lot of that is due to social gatherings and how we have changed our interactions,” Stobart explained.

IU Health is asking IMS to reconsider allowing fan attendance at the Indy 500. Health officials believe this could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections.

IMS responded and said their plan will serve as a model for the careful and conscientious management of events during this pandemic, adding “We have not received a single suggestion from IU Health as to how our approach might be improved.”

“I can respect both sides of the argument. I mean, the Indianapolis 500 is part of the identity of the state. It’s part of what Hoosiers consider who they are and what this state represents,” Stobart said.

The Marion County Public Health Department has approved IMS’s plan. They will limit capacity to 25% and require fans to wear masks.

“We are still talking about 100,000 people descending upon Indianapolis. That’s about 10% of the population of Marion County going to be increased in one day in a two and a half square mile area,” Stobart added.

IU Health officials said they also have concerns about the risks of infection beyond the track, like visitors traveling to restaurants and social gatherings. They believe this could potentially spread the virus. 

“I can’t tell you which side makes the best sense. What I can tell you is I’m concerned if everyone gets together. We’re now depending on everyone going to that event to practice social distancing and wear masks,” Stobart said. 

The Indy 500 is scheduled for August 23. IMS plans to keep working closely with the Marion County Public Health Department.

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