Ohio Track Cancels Horse Racing Meet for Two Weeks After Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Posted on: November 11, 2020, 11:55h. 

Last updated on: November 12, 2020, 10:06h.

Live horse racing has gone dark at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Youngstown, Ohio, after track representatives learned of a positive COVID-19 test case.

Mahoning Valley Racing
Live horse racing has been shut down for at least two weeks at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Youngstown, Ohio, after a track employee came down with COVID. (Image: Mahoning Valley Race Course)

The closure took effect Tuesday afternoon a little more than an hour before post time at the track. Mahoning Valley representatives made the decision upon the recommendation of area health officials.

A statement on the track’s website indicates live racing has been suspended through Nov. 21 after a positive test “emanating from racetrack operations” was reported. Mahoning Valley hopes to resume racing on Nov. 23.

According to the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a track employee is in intensive care.

Through video surveillance of the jocks room (it) has been determined that at least 12 Mahoning Valley racing officials and employees had exposure to that employee, which will require a 14-day self-quarantine for those persons,” the HBPA said in a statement. “A number of jockeys are in the same situation, and track officials are still trying to identify certain people from the tapes which will add to that total.”

While live racing is not available, the track’s simulcasting center will remain open. In addition, the Hollywood Gaming racino is still open as well. The Penn National Gaming venue, located near the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line about halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, offers 1,123 video-lottery terminals, according to the Ohio Lottery, which manages the state’s racinos.

COVID Spiking in Ohio

Mahoning Valley’s temporary closure comes as the country is seeing a sharp increase in the number of COVID cases. Ohio is no different.

On Wednesday, the state reported 5,874 cases, the second-highest one-day total behind Tuesday’s report of 6,508. More than 267,000 cases have been identified since the pandemic began in March.

Across the state, hospitals report 2,880 patients with the coronavirus, with 716 in intensive care. The state also reported 76 deaths Wednesday, bringing the overall total to 5,623.

A new mask requirement order implemented Wednesday would force businesses to close if they failed repeatedly to force customers and employees to don masks. Gov. Mike DeWine also warned that should the cases continue to increase, the state will resort to closing bars, restaurants, and gyms by next week. One set of businesses he didn’t target for closure were the casinos and racinos, which he shut down for three months at the beginning of the crisis in March.

Instead, he urged people to avoid attending private parties, and reminded Ohioans of the state’s mass gathering restrictions. The order, in place since June, restricts such public and private events to just 10 people.

“Please don’t host that birthday party or that baby shower. Or that kids sleepover or that get-together to watch the football game,” DeWine said Wednesday. “Don’t attend the gatherings that you were invited to. Stay home when you can. Work from home if you can.”

Mahoning Valley Latest COVID Closure

Mahoning Valley is just the latest track to shut down because of the coronavirus. In September, the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey closed for nearly two weeks after workers contracted the virus.

Tracks in California, including Santa Anita, went dark for a couple of weeks in the spring after local health officials ordered them to close. Fair Grounds Race Course in Louisiana shut down its meet early in March because of the pandemic. Keeneland in Kentucky canceled its annual spring meet, and Churchill Downs delayed and shortened its spring meet as well.