Yesterday I wrote about how the owners of Ace Speedway, located in Elon, North Carolina, had become celebrities of sorts in North Carolina over the past few weeks by continuing to defy Gov. Roy Cooper (D) over the outdoor gathering limit outlined in Phase 2 of North Carolina’s “reopening” plan.
To date, owners Robert and Jason Turner (father and son) have done it three times, with the last one being Saturday. Saturday’s race was especially noteworthy as it was held in spite of the fact that Cooper’s attorneys had sent a strongly worded letter to Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson demanding that he take action against the owners of the speedway for their failure to obey the state’s Phase 2 outdoor gathering limit of 25. Johnson initially told the media that he would cite the speedway’s owners Saturday but didn’t, because Saturday’s race was billed as being part of a peaceful protest:
This sign is outside of Ace Speedway tonight.
Governor Roy Cooper urged Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson to enforce his executive order in phase 2, which said no more than 25 people can gather.
— Amanda Ferguson (@_amandaferguson) June 6, 2020
At least 2,000 were in attendance, which is a far cry from the number of protesters who packed into the streets last week for the George Floyd marches. Some single-day crowd estimates for the Charlotte protests had the numbers between 10,000 and 15,000.
Before the race, temperature checks were done and contact tracing procedures were in effect, which you also did not see at last week’s protests:
Fans are beginning to take their seats for the racing at Ace Speedway tonight. Everyone entering is being temperature tested and having their photo ID documented to have a method of contact tracing. pic.twitter.com/F2NSdwdlgL
— Chris Weaver (@chris8video) June 6, 2020
Under Phase 2, outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than 25 people. There are First Amendment exceptions to that, which protests like the ones we’ve seen happen across the state over the last week in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd would fall under.
Basically what was happening here is that the speedway’s owners exposed the governor’s Phase 2 hypocrisy. If groups of 10-15,000 can cram together on a street to protest without temperature checks and without contact tracing measures put in place, why can’t a speedway reopen that not only is doing both, but that also did so on First Amendment grounds?
Because Cooper is all about controlling the people and not governing them, here’s how his office responded today:
Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered a North Carolina stock car speedway to close immediately, saying it is “an imminent hazard for the spread of COVID-19.”
This comes after Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said he would not cite Ace Speedway for violating the state’s prohibition against mass gatherings.
Cooper’s executive order caps most outdoor meetings to 25 people and local media outlets have reported crowds at the speedway exceeding 2,000, including Saturday when a race dubbed itself a “protest.”
Johnson said he has reservations about the order’s legality.
Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said in an abatement order issued to the speedway on Tuesday that the racetrack could reopen if it presents a plan showing it will follow state guidelines.
In addition, the plan must be approved by the NCDHHS for the speedway to reopen.
Here’s how our woke DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen described the speedway owners and race attendees:
“Across the state, North Carolinians are making huge sacrifices to protect their families and neighbors. This virus is highly contagious and very dangerous. Bad actors who flagrantly violate public health orders put all of our families and loved ones at risk,” said Cohen.
Contrast what Cohen said there with what she said last week when asked if the state was concerned about a Wuhan virus outbreak happening in the aftermath of a week and a half of protests:
Although it is too early to tell, the state’s top public health official, Dr. Mandy Cohen, said North Carolina is in a good position to respond to any outbreaks that stem from the demonstrations.
Cohen said she was pleased to see a majority of the protesters over the weekend wearing masks. Yet, all three of the precautionary steps should be done in “concert together,” she said.
CDC recommendations for large gatherings also call for setting up a plan to respond to outbreaks. Cohen said she is “keeping an eye” on the situation.
“I think we’re in a much better place than we were just a few months ago when this all started in March,” she said. “We now have worked incredibly hard to get the protective equipment we need. We’ve worked hard to really ramp up our testing effort.”
Back when Reopen marchers took to the streets to demand Cooper reopen the state so people could get back to work, both Cooper and Cohen sang different tunes, ridiculing and scolding protesters at the time for putting the lives of others at risk.
But as others noted, these races have been going on for three weeks now. Shouldn’t we know at this point whether any Alamance County cases have come from attending an outdoor racing event?
Does anyone know if a single case of COVID-19 has been traced to these races? Seems like if this has been going on for 3 weeks and the virus has a 2 week incubation period, we should know whether these events are an "imminent threat" using science and data. #NCPOL https://t.co/Hay6BrxfqJ
— Brent Woodcox (@BrentWoodcox) June 9, 2020
It also appears the racetrack has been collecting contact-tracing information from attendees.
So, this would be easy to confirm.https://t.co/z9pnU7NbHX
— Pete Kaliner (@PeteKaliner) June 9, 2020
Sadly, the NCDHHS website is vague (and probably deliberately so) when it comes providing detailed information at the county level on the number of cases diagnosed over a period of time. As it stands now, Alamance County has had 519 confirmed cases, with 23 deaths.