Empty Churchill Downs Stands

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville health department leaders warn there could be a spike in coronavirus cases if people are not careful while gathering this week to celebrate the Kentucky Derby and the holiday weekend.

Just weeks before the Derby, Churchill Downs announced fans would no longer be allowed to attend this year as a COVID-19 safety precaution. But just because the track is closed doesn't mean all bets are off for anyone trying to enjoy the race from home.

“We do feel that extra pressure to gather,” said Nick Hart, the environmental health manager for Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. “And in Louisville, it’s going to be even more considering our Derby weekend is the same as Labor Day.”

COVID-19 cases have tended to spike after a holiday weekend, so Hart said that is a realistic possibility after this week’s festivities if people do not take precautions.

“It’s unrealistic to think that people are not going to gather to celebrate both the summer, their family and friends, as well as the Derby,” Hart said. “We know that the virus travels because people travel. We know that it spreads because people group up. So we have to expect that it’s a reality that if people gather together, we’re going to see more spread of the virus.”

Hart said there are five main things people can do to prevent spreading the virus, whether it’s a holiday or not:

  1. Stay 6 feet apart
  2. Wear a face covering
  3. Avoid groups
  4. Stay home if you feel sick
  5. Be extra careful if you’re in a high-risk category

Hart added there are other safety precautions to observe if you are hosting or attending a gathering this week:

  • Keep the guest list to 10 people or less and to people already in your bubble of close connections
  • Avoid serving food that everyone shares
  • Make sure the person preparing food is healthy
  • Sanitize surfaces often and have sanitizer available everyone
  • Stay outside and have an outdoor backup plan for bad weather
  • Only allow people inside to use the restroom and make sure they are masked when inside

“It’s important to make sure that you know who is at your gathering so that you can help identify people in case somebody was sick,” Hart said.

For other suggestions to host a safe gathering, review the state’s COVID-19 guidelines online.

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