Churchill Downs announces limited attendance, mandatory masks for Kentucky Derby

Liz Roscher
·3-min read

Things will be very different at the Kentucky Derby this year, and not just because it’s been moved to September.

Churchill Downs announced on Wednesday that it will welcome only a limited number of fans to the racetrack for the famous horse race this year due to COVID-19 precautions. Under 23,000 fans will be able to attend, which is just 15 percent of the approximately 150,000 that attend during a normal year. There will be no general admission or standing-room only tickets, and the infield will be closed.

The Derby, which was scheduled to take place on May 2, was postponed until Sept. 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mandatory masks, no exceptions

Reduced attendance is just one part of Churchill Downs’ plans to have a safe but exciting Derby experience in 2020. Those who attend will be required to fill out a medical questionnaire and submit to temperature checks. Physical distancing must be practiced, and masks are mandatory both inside and outside.

The empty stands at Churchill Downs.
Less than 23,000 fans will be allowed at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby in September. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Those who do not follow the rules will be issued a warning, and continued non-compliance will lead to ejection from the track. Luckily, Churchill Downs plans to help every guest stick to the rules by giving everyone a “Healthy at the Track” bag upon entrance. The bag will have a disposable mask, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and a stylus so people can take advantage of self-service betting machines without touching any community surfaces.

In a statement, Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery emphasized the work he and his staff have done to develop their comprehensive plan, as well as the involvement of local authorities and experts.

“The opportunity to safely welcome back a limited number of guests to Churchill Downs on the first week of September is a privilege that our team doesn’t take for granted,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “Our extensive plan meets or exceeds all recommended state and local guidelines. We’ve received an exceptional level of support from regulators, medical experts and public health authorities and we’ll continue to carefully work with them to ensure we’re doing everything we can to keep our customers, employees and communities safe.

“We will have fewer guests at this year’s Derby as reducing the size of the crowd is an important step to ensuring a safe environment. Medical best practices and protocols – many of which we have applied in consultation with experts both inside and outside the sports industry – will be implemented, and we’ll make adjustments all the way up to Derby Day as we find ways to improve and continue to adhere to ever-evolving best practices.”

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