Month of May

Maskless Indianapolis 500 fans during qualifying raise concerns about race day

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Concerns about the spread of the coronavirus are surrounding the track as race day approaches.

During qualifying Saturday and Sunday, many race fans were maskless as they cheered on their favorite drivers. Video caught over the weekend showed hundreds of people with no face coverings in the grandstands and walking around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

While mask mandates have been lifted in many Indiana counties and around the country, Marion’s County mandate will stand for at least a couple more weeks for reasons specifically surrounding Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 race. Local health officials and track officials say the mask mandate is holding; however, it doesn’t seem to be enforced off 16th Street.

Video from qualifying weekend at IMS showed race fans happy to be hearing the cars zoom by and getting to be face to face with their favorite drivers. The one problem: Very few of them were wearing any kind of face covering while seated or walking around the speedway.

Guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on May 13 say that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

That, however, is not the case in Marion County, where officials recommended the City-County Council lift the mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated as soon as June 7. That’s more than a week after Sunday’s race.

“June 7 would get us beyond one of the largest events, if not the largest event in the world since the start of the pandemic, this year’s Indianapolis 500,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett in a May 19 virtual news conference where the Democrat announced the latest recommendations.

Doug Boles, president of the speedway, laid out the new rules for the track before the Month of May. He said everyone must have a seat, be socially distanced, and wear a mask while inside the track.

When asked about the lack of mask enforcement at the track, the Marion County Public Health Department send a statement:

“These protocols, which will continue to be in effect through Race Weekend, include spacing between customer pods, masks required in all areas including the paddock (which is over 90% vaccinated), mask ambassadors in the grandstands in addition to Health Department staff present at the race, readily available PPE, as well as constant and highly visible signage and announcements reminding fans of the health precautions in place.”

Marion County Public Health Department

Indianapolis Motor Speedway did not respond to a request from News 8 for a statement regarding the lack of enforcement and what the plan is heading into race weekend.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be at 40% capacity — that’s 135,000 race fans — for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 due to the pandemic, IMS announced in May. All concerts have also been canceled, including the popular race-day Snake Pit concert. With 135,000 fans, the race would be the largest sport event to date during the pandemic.

The speedway had not announced by Monday afternoon whether the race will air live locally on television or be rebroadcasted later.

The 2020 race was moved from May to August due to the pandemic, and was aired live on television. The race had no fans in the stands.

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