Indiana University Health fears the Indianapolis 500, even with a reduced crowd, “could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections.” The health system is calling on the race organizers to consider an alternative to a race with fans.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 22 announced attendance for the 104th running of the race on August 23 will be approximately 25% of capacity. Face coverings will be required for all attendees. Ticket sales ended Friday. IMS also presented its nearly 100-page plan with its guidelines and protocols to address the need to control the spread of the coronavirus.
IU Health, though, also notes the other places where gatherings could occur — restaurants, bars, accommodations and more — as being a concern beyond the track.
Based in Indianapolis, IU Health is the largest network of physicians in Indiana. It’s a partner with Indiana University School of Medicine, one of the nation’s leading medical schools.
Here’s the entire statement from IU Health:
“We appreciate Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s detailed plan to safely host the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. We have concerns about the risks of infection beyond the scope of the IMS plan, including social gatherings, travel, restaurants, bars, accommodations and other event-related activities. This could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections as we continue to see cases and hospitalizations increase every day. Until we sustain better control of this virus and its spread, we strongly encourage IMS to consider an alternative to running the Indy 500 with fans in August.”
Indianapolis Motor Speedway responded late Wednesday night in an email to WISH-TV’s newsroom:
“IU Health’s viewpoint is inaccurate and premature.
“IMS has put together a plan that will serve as a model for the careful and conscientious management of events during this pandemic. It is informed by expert advice and reflects our belief that with carefully considered precautions in place, it’s not necessary or appropriate to return to shutting down events that are important to our state and city.
“Despite attempts by our organization to engage with IU Health leadership, we have not received a single suggestion from IU Health as to how our approach might be improved. In contrast, public health officials from our city and state have engaged with us for months. They have given us numerous suggestions that we have implemented, and they have approved our plans subject to continued review.
“We remain open to meaningful input from IU Health that will improve our detailed operational plan as we move closer to Race Day.”
Coronavirus restrictions in force for Marion County since July 23 include all bars closed, and restaurants with 50% indoor capacity and outdoor seating with social distancing. Social gatherings — including weddings, banquets, parties and club meetings — are limited to 50 people. All other forms of gatherings, meetings, or special or seasonal events must be limited to 250 people or fewer, unless the city’s Public Health department approves a risk mitigation plan for a special or seasonal event that anticipates more than 250 attendees.
The health network’s statement came on the same day Gov. Eric Holcomb extended the Stage 4.5 reopening plan through August 27 because of high seven-day average positivity rates for the coronavirus. On July 22, Holcomb initiated a statewide mask mandate. Indianapolis has been under a mask mandate since July 9.