County officials respond after Gov. Cooper calls speedway gathering ‘dangerous’

North Carolina news

GRAHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Alamance County officials responded Tuesday after a speedway in the county reopened over the weekend and images from packed stands drew attention to crowds.

The ACE Speedway near Elon reopened for racing on Saturday. More than 2,500 people showed up and video showed many fans crammed into the stands — with few wearing masks or social distancing.

Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said in advance that he would not interfere in the reopening.

Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the large gathering at the speedway during his Tuesday news conference.

“It is dangerous and reckless to try and draw a crowd and I hope and pray that no one gets sick or even dies from that gathering,” Cooper said. “People who live in an area where this kind of thing draws people from potentially surrounding states and surrounding counties, it ought to be very concerning to them that this occurred.”

WGHP-TV asked Cooper if he would enforce restrictions at the speedway if the county would not.

“That is a dangerous situation that ought to concern all the local officials and all the citizens surrounding that venue. All of the options are on the table for us and we are examining those options now,” Cooper replied.

Tuesday, Alamance County officials said that before the speedway reopening they had repeatedly contacted state health officials “for guidance.”

“Alamance County Government officials were puzzled by Governor Cooper’s comments regarding ACE Speedway during the media update on Tuesday, May 26, since no one from the Governor’s office has reached out directly to the county, even after the county requested guidance and input,” a news release from Alamance County said.

The county sent a letter to Cooper on Wednesday of last week, Alamance County officials said.

The letter requested “a regional approach to reopening be considered and that local governments participate in decision making,” according to county officials, who added they did not receive a response.

On May 20, county officials also said they had a conference call about the reopening of ACE Speedway. It included the speedway owner and Matt Gross, the Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“Alamance County has yet to hear directly from anyone with the governor’s staff, NCDHHS, or anyone else in State government,” the Alamance County letter said Tuesday.

In the letter Tuesday, Alamance County officials said that 2,550 spectators attended the racing Saturday on a 50-acre property. County officials said that was about 50% of fire capacity.

Alamance County officials also said they developed a plan for reopening ACE Speedway, which included rosters for contact tracing were provided, 10 feet of distance between each car in the pit area, and 6 feet of social distancing in the pit area.

Here is the complete letter from Alamance County officials:

Alamance County’s Response to Questions Regarding the Reopening of ACE Speedway

Alamance County Government officials were puzzled by Governor Cooper’s comments
regarding ACE Speedway during the media update on Tuesday, May 26, since no one from
the Governor’s office has reached out directly to the county, even after the county
requested guidance and input. Local governments across North Carolina have asked
repeatedly to have a voice in how the COVID restrictions impact their communities.
However, those requests have not been addressed.

Alamance County Government has repeatedly reached out to Governor Cooper and
NCDHHS for guidance in how to assist ACE Speedway to operate in a safe manner.
Alamance County sent a letter to the Governor on April 20, requesting that a regional
approach to reopening be considered and that local governments participate in decision
making. The County has not received a direct response to its letter.
On May 11, 2020, Alamance County Government officials, Jason Turner of ACE Speedway,
and Matt Gross, the Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs at the NC Department of
Health and Human Services, participated in a conference call, discussing how ACE
Speedway could safely operate during Phase 2. Mr. Gross stated that it was not known
whether Phase 2 would begin on May 22 and that it was not known what capacity
businesses such as ACE Speedway could expect, but it would likely be between 25-50% of
fire code. A document entitled, “Precaution Requirements for ACE Speedway” was
developed through collaboration between NCDHHS, the Alamance County Health
Department, and ACE Speedway. Jason Turner assured Alamance County on multiple
occasions that he intended to follow the recommended protocols at ACE Speedway.

After reviewing Executive Order 141 on Wednesday, May 20, Alamance County had
questions about its applicability and enforcement. On Thursday, May 21, at 9:00 a.m.,
Alamance County Government officials, Robert Turner of ACE Speedway, and Matt
Gross of DHHS participated in a conference call. Mr. Gross was made aware of
Alamance County’s concerns and questions. He stated that, not being an attorney, he
could not advise the county, and he promised to forward the county’s concerns to the
Governor’s staff and that someone would get back to the county. Alamance County
has yet to hear directly from anyone with the Governor’s staff, NCDHHS, or anyone
else in State government.

The health and safety of its residents continues to be the highest priority of Alamance
County. Alamance County has investigated the precautions taken last Saturday night
at ACE Speedway, and has verified the following: 2550 spectators on a 50 acre
property (approximately 50% of fire capacity); rosters for contact tracing were
provided; 10 feet distance between each car in the pit area; recommended masks and 6
feet social distancing in pit area; multiple hand sanitizer stations provided; precaution
signage; Plexiglas partitions where appropriate; marks of 6 feet of spacing in lines and
high traffic areas; one-way arrows for traffic through the restrooms; public
announcements every 30 minutes to remind spectators to social distance and wash
hands; restrooms and other public areas sanitized regularly; and limits on the number
of people in the infield and outfield.

ALAMANCE COUNTY
GOVERNMENT
124 W. Elm Street, Graham
336-228-1312

More headlines from CBS17.com:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Sponsored Content
Visit Buy Local

Trending Stories