Some good news related to the potential for holding events with fans in attendance: public health officials say that they have not found any evidence that a NASCAR race in July with more than 20,000 in attendance led to any clusters of new COVID-19 cases.
The July 15 NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway was one of the first large-scale events in the nation as states reopened following its initial shutdown due to the coronavirus. Event organizers put in place numerous measures to protect the safety of those attending, from physical distance within the stands to a requirement that all wear masks except while at their seats in the stands.
It seems to have worked, at least based on tracking and tracing efforts surrounding new cases in the area performed by health officials.
From the Herald Courier:
Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, said the case investigation work includes two basic questions: First, has an individual traveled anywhere in the last two weeks? And second, has that person attended any large events or group gatherings?
Those questions would probably capture whether an individual’s case was connected to the race, he said.
When asked whether cases associated with local businesses could potentially have been related to the race, May said, “We have had rising clusters in all settings beginning even before the race, and we’ve not been able to tie any of them back to the race by using those two questions.”
The Mount Rogers Health District, which includes Bristol, Virginia and several other Southwest Virginia localities, has also not recorded any cases directly linked to the July 15 race.
“We do case investigation and contact tracing on every case,” Karen Shelton, the district’s director, wrote in an email to the Bristol Herald Courier.
“We know the disease is being transmitted throughout our communities, so that can come from any venue — gas station, grocery store, restaurant. Many cases we do not know exactly where they contracted the disease — that is part of community spread,” Shelton said.
A Virginia Department of Health spokeswoman confirmed Friday that the agency has not received any reports of cases directly linked to the race.
NASCAR has remained among the few event organizers to allow fans at their races thus far – aided no doubt by the fact that many venues could hold enormous capacity crowds, meaning drastically reducing capacity still allows for a large number of spectators.