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‘Significantly lower risk’ of COVID-19 spread at Indy 500 since ‘it’s outdoors’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — “We can hold large events safely if we follow the proper safety protocols,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be capped at 40% capacity because of the coronavirus. That means 135,000 fans will be allowed to attend the Indianapolis 500, and Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County’s health director, says she’s confident they’re making the right decision.

“This is an outdoor event, which has a significantly lower risk of spread because it’s outdoors,” Caine said.

She adds that more people are getting vaccinated. “We’ve now had nearly two full months of vaccine eligibility for anyone over the age of 16-plus.”

Caine says the Indianapolis Motor Speedway contributed to the rising number of people getting vaccinated, hosting a mass-vaccination clinic starting in March. She adds that there will also be contact tracing for race fans.

“We have a very robust number of contact tracers, of which the Marion County (Public) Health Department in partnership with the Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health contact tracers,” Caine said. “We’ll be monitoring any of the positive cases.”

But, she says, the speedway will also have its own contact tracers who’ll work with to track down people who tested positive for the virus.

“A lot of the positive cases are reported by laboratory to the Indiana State Department of Health and then Marion County. Those names are turned over for us to do contact tracing,” Caine said.

Although fans from Michigan and other states where COVID-19 cases are on the rise might visit, Caine says, the speedway is alert.

“They keep track of this with their season-ticket holders, of where their participants or fans have come from in the past year,” Caine said.

She adds that the race will draw fans from outside the United States.

Overall, health officials say, the community is ready to welcome the fans but reminds everyone to keep safety measures in mind.