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Churchill Downs has closed general admission at the Kentucky Derby this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The track still plans to host an estimated 23,000 guests at the 146th Run For the Roses scheduled for September 5th, Churchill Downs said in a statement Wednesday.

As part of a 62-page “health and safety operations plan”,  the track said reserved seating would be limited to 40% occupancy and standing room-only tickets have been eliminated. The plan calls for outdoor ticket holders to be placed in a “new comparable location” to meet social distance guidelines.  Pre-purchased General Admission tickets will be refunded.

Officials say guests will receive temperature checks and medical questionnaires before entering the track.

Inside, guests will have to wear masks unless they’re eating or drinking. They’ll also have less access walking around the track and fewer concessions. Guests can still bet at the pari-mutuel tellers, but the track is encouraging them to wager online using their phones instead.

Plans say onsite security will enforce the measures, and will remove repeat offenders.

Despite all the enhanced health measures, Churchill Downs Racetrack is still warning guests that they assume all risks related to the exposure of COVID-19.

Churchill Downs said it expects a less celebratory Derby atmosphere on Sept. 5, citing the coronavirus pandemic and demands for social justice. It said the event should “serve as a progressive unifying force.”

“The role of the Kentucky Derby and its importance to our community and the nation as a whole takes on even greater significance this year. Over the past several months, our country has faced both the spread of COVID-19 and a moment of national reckoning with racial inequities following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others. These important issues deserve thoughtful discussion, continued conversation and subsequent action. To this end, the atmosphere at this year’s Kentucky Derby will not be the celebration it normally is,” the statement said.

 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.