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IMS responds to IU Health call for Indy 500 to run without fans

The concern is with the potential for COVID-19 spread at social gatherings, travel, restaurants, bars, accommodations and other event-related activities.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Indianapolis 500 is now just weeks away, but IU Health is encouraging the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to put the brakes on allowing fans. IU Health is warning about what even 25 percent fan capacity could mean for not just the race, but the surrounding areas.

A statement released from IU Health reads: 

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 encourage IMS to consider an alternative to running the Indy 500 with fans in August.

The IMS issued a strong response Thursday afternoon. The statement given to 13News reads:

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.

IMS released a safety plan last week that called for a reduction in the number of fans to just 25 percent for the Aug. 23 race. It also released details on safety measures that would be used including providing fans with masks and hand sanitizer.

Other safety changes include reassignment of seats for social distancing, temperature checks, and changes to minimize lines including pre-packaged food at concession stands. 

"We will welcome fans back, and we have an aggressive plan in place, which has been developed through collaboration with national, state and local health experts," said Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles. 

For more information on the IMS plans, click here. 

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