Derby guests, including Louisville mayor, ditch required masks at track

Local health leaders to watch COVID case numbers closely for possible spike
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 5:26 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Kentucky Derby hosted the largest gathering at an American sporting event since the beginning of the COVID pandemic with around 51,000 attendees, but many of the event’s spectators weren’t wearing the required masks.

According to Churchill Downs, masks were to be worn by guests at all times both inside and outside unless actively eating or drinking. In addition, the rules mentioned that simply holding a beverage did not count as active consumption.

Post-Derby, WAVE 3 News asked Darren Rogers of Churchill Downs about the lack of mask-wearing and enforcement.

“We urged everyone to wear their masks [and] follow the guidelines,” Rogers said. “The majority of people did. There were some who didn’t.”

However, WAVE 3 News noticed the majority of people were not wearing a face covering, including when the Churchill Downs “mask police” walked past holding signs that said, “Mask Required. Thank you.”

A photo of Mayor Greg Fischer caught with his mask down, literally, at the Kentucky Derby has made the rounds on social media just one week after the Louisville leader advised the public to abide by the safety guidelines at the track and during private Derby parties.

“The city’s stance is naturally, we want everyone to be practicing what they know they should be practicing right now, which is wear your mask, social distance, [and] get vaccinated,” Fischer said April 24 when asked about Derby safety protocols.

WAVE 3 News asked Dr. Hugh Shoff, the Associate Chief Medical Officer for UofL Hospital if there were many health risks to going maskless at Derby, considering it was a mostly outdoor event.

“Masks do show it helps prevent spread, so if you have a large group of people without masks on, they’re very close together, you worry that somebody might have COVID and is now spreading this to other people,” Shoff said.

However, Shoff added that now a certain percentage of the population has been vaccinated which may have helped protect people from the virus.

Local health officials plan to keep an extra close eye on case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths over the next couple of weeks before determining if Derby could have been what is known as a “super spreader event.”

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