Spectators at the Indy 500

For two weeks, Ontario has been under a ‘stay-at-home’ order where activities including motorsports are banned. For the second weekend in a row, IndyCars will be racing in the US. Last week on the road course in Birmingham, Alabama and this week on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

The vaccination rollout in the US has been going remarkably well. For example, 8.3 million of Florida’s 21.4 million residents have been fully vaccinated. That’s nearly 39% compared to only 2.5% in Ontario. While 4.5 million shots have been administered to Ontario’s 14.5 million residents, it’s mostly first shots. It’s still early days. Due to these vaccination numbers, Canada and the US have taken very different routes when it comes to restrictions.

Both amateur and professional racing series have been suspended in most of Canada in order to prevent large gatherings. By comparison, the state of Indiana will allow 135,000 spectators into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch the Indy 500 on May 30th, 2021. While this is only 40% of “normal” race day capacity, it will still be the largest gathering of people in the US since the start of the pandemic.

The IMS facility is huge, with a capacity of 400,000, so spectators will easily be able to maintain social distance (important) at the outdoor event (more important). Other safety measures include:

  • Masks will be required
  • Temperature checks will be performed at entry gates
  • Some spacing will be used for social distancing between customer groups in rows to either side
  • IMS will continue its vaccination clinic through many days in May

It’s impossible to say what is the right thing to do. at the 2020 Indy 500, when Takuma Sato emerging from his race car to the silence of victory lane, it was anti-climactic. And yes, there are racing fans who’ve received both doses of the vaccine, and should be able to return to ‘normal’ life now. Yet less than half the population has been vaccinated. Does 100,000+ people in one venue sound like a smart idea?

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