With the yellow caution flag out on racing, we wanted to address we're at, where we're going, and what we should be doing.
Yesterday the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a pandemic. The reaction today has been vast and will be harsh to the entertainment industry. Supercross in Seattle has been canceled, NASCAR will have no fans at the Homestead or Atlanta races, NHRA has postponed the Gatornationals and there are more events likely to cancel. But as we enter the busiest months for racing events should we shut down or should the show go on?
First, for those that don't know, what exactly is the Coronavirus?
On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease.
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.
What source of information can we trust?
Be careful about the sources you are using for information, even if they seem legitimate. The World Health Organization (WHO), country-specific government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are your best bet. Even these groups though come with several caveats. Double-check your sources and be sure they are coming directly from the organization. There have been several accidental and fake reports. Practice social media distancing and remember common sense is your best source.
What should our industry do? Shut down or continue business as usual?
We have a few choices. We can deny this is real and go about our racing season with business as usual. This is not advised. We can over hype the situation, close our doors completely, stay home and shut down our tracks. Our best alternative is to implement a decision-making process that contains common sense, accurate information about our specific area and current status of the outbreak. We should make conclusions without fear and panic. There simply is not a one size fits all scenario at this point.
The truth is there are still a lot of unknowns about this disease. Will it slow down in the summer months as the flu does? At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when the weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and investigations are ongoing.
The USMA contacted several experts in health, insurance, legal and event promotions. Here's what we learned from their comments and what might help you make decisions about your travel and events.
Consider how far people travel to attend your events or how far you're traveling to get to a race event. Consider the current status of the virus in your specific area. Some areas of the country are seeing greater cases than others.
Stay informed and remain flexible and prepared for quick changes to schedules if the status of your area changes. You may have no cases of CORVID-19 in your area, but then the night before your event cases are reported in your county. Be OK with canceling or postponing your events.
Contact your insurance and legal experts to understand your options. Don't assume a canceled event is covered. Consider what your liabilities are if someone becomes infected at your track or business.
Be sure your facilities are sanitized. Coronavirus is believed to remain active up to three-hours in the air and three-days on some surfaces. Spend some extra time cleaning your facilities including grandstands, bathrooms, food service areas, handrails, etc. Stock your bathrooms with antibacterial soap and appropriate towels. Offer up free hand sanitizer to your fans as they come into your gates and strategically place sanitizer around your facilities.
Demand that your staff, fans, and racers stay home if they are having any cold or flu symptoms. If you’re a racer no matter where you stand in the points championship stay home if you or anyone on your team has symptoms.
Communicate with your sponsors, promoters and sanctioning groups. Work with your sponsors to keep them informed and see how you can work together to get through the situation. Sponsors are struggling as well. Be mindful of their challenges and be a resource and supporter.
To sum up the situation. Take a deep breath, we will get through this. Stay informed (with reliable info). Be prepared. Be flexible. Let facts not fear rule your decisions. As we enter the weekend with a real pandemic upon us, try not to let stress overrun you. Take some time to take a break from the news, turn off social media, be thankful you live in the greatest country in the world, and spend some quality time with your family.
Be well, God Speed.
World Health Organization (WHO): https://www.who.int/
Centers for Disease Control (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Event Safety Alliance (ESA) put out a recent podcast titled: Coronavirus - MUST the Show Go On? It's worth a listen. https://www.eventsafetyalliance.org/podcast/2020/3/9/episode-11-coronavirus-must-the-show-go-on