NORTH CAROLINA — State officials ordered ACE Speedway in Alamance County to shut down operations Tuesday after the venue held a series of races with thousands of spectators, ignoring the state's current ban on mass gatherings of more than 25 people amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Gatherings of more than 25 people in a confined, outdoor space are strictly prohibited," North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday in a statement. "The risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 is higher in settings where people gather, share facilities or have increased respiratory efforts, such as cheering. "
Reports indicate the speedway allowed between 2,500 and 4,000 fan into its stands for races held over the last three weeks, which pose an imminent hazard for the spread of COVID-19, NCDHHS said.
"While the Abatement Order halts operations, it allows ACE Speedway to propose a new plan which could allow races to resume, under the condition that steps be taken to adhere to the restrictions in place regarding mass gathering numbers and social distancing precautions.
On June 6, ACE Speedway in Elon, North Carolina held the Solid Rock Carriers CAR Tour in defiance of the ban of the state's current Phase 2 ban of mass gatherings of more than 25 people, posting a handwritten sign out front claiming First Amendment protections for the commercial event. The sign read, "This event is held in peaceful protest of injustice and inequality everywhere."
During Memorial Day weekend, the speedway admitted 2,500 fans for its season opener. Photos of the crowds showed no social distancing or mask wearing.
Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson has been vocal in his opposition to the current Phase 2 restrictions underway in North Carolina, saying he would not be enforcing Cooper's mass gathering ban because he had "serious reservations on the legality," of the order.
“It puts me in a heck of a position as a sheriff, and any sheriff in this state, to try to write a citation to enforce the governor’s order when in fact it’s a constitutional violation in my opinion and the other sheriffs in this state,” Johnson told WGHP Tuesday after the Abatement Order was issued.
As of Tuesday, Alamance County had 519 cases of COVID-19 and 23 coronavirus-related deaths, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
The order comes as Burlington, North Carolina in Alamance reports one of the highest death rates in the nation from COVID-19, doubling about every six days, WXII reported.