By Brian DiDonato
A pair of workers at Turfway Park–one backstretch worker and one track employee–have tested positive for coronavirus in recent weeks, according to a report first published by Blood-Horse. Turfway’s parent company Churchill Downs ended the Turfway meet–which had been being conducted without spectators–three days earlier than scheduled last month, citing Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s “Healthy at Home” executive order.
Churchill Downs, Inc. spokesperson Tonya Abeln confirmed to the TDN Wednesday that the ill backstretch worker was symptomatic more than two weeks ago and was subsequently hospitalized and tested positive for COVID-19. He has not since returned to the track property.
Abeln noted that Turfway has provided quarantine accommodations for two more asymptomatic backstretch workers who were believed to have been in contact with the individual who tested positive.
“These accommodations consisted of private sleeping quarters as well as a private bath and wash room. Food and welfare checks were provided daily,” she said via email, adding “we are now grateful to report that both of those backside workers have completed their 14 day quarantine and there are currently no further positives, symptoms or potential exposure that would necessitate quarantine of any individual backside workers at this time.”
The Turfway Park employee who tested positive for COVID-19 is said to have had no interactions with workers on the backside and has been self-quarantining at home.
The first news of coronavirus positives at a Kentucky track comes as CDI attempts to coordinate the already delayed opening of the Churchill Downs backside (currently scheduled for Apr. 28) and a potential start date for its spring meet (still undetermined) with state officials and horsemen.
“We are extremely committed to ensuring a safe environment for those who are providing essential care to the horses on our backsides right now,” Abeln said. “We have rolled out and are continually updating health and safety procedures and protocols for our employees and the backside community with that in mind. We are in close communication with the trainers who employ the individuals on the backside in an effort to work together to find the safest and most responsible solutions during this unusual time until we are able to open the backside at Churchill Downs Racetrack (a decision that will be made by the Governor of Kentucky) where these horses and workers would customarily be right now.”
Abeln added, “There is no update to report on the opening of Churchill Downs backside or racing meet at this time.”