GPA Long Beach “monitoring” California coronavirus threat
The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach’s president and CEO Jim Michaelian says the coronavirus threat in California is being monitored and precautions have been taken ahead of one of IndyCar’s most prestigious events.
The 46th running of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is due to be held April 17-19, as the third round in the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series championship.
Since Indy cars replaced Formula 1 as the headline act at the GP in 1984, Long Beach has become U.S. open-wheel racing’s ‘crown jewel’ race outside of the Indianapolis 500, and is reputed to draw more than 180,000 visitors over the course of the three days. The event includes races for IndyCar and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as well as four support series, car expositions, and concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings.
However, the coronavirus threat is reported to be spreading fast in California – the Los Angeles Times reports 60 cases at time of writing. LA Times also reports that there are 13 cases in LA County, in which Long Beach is situated.
Sonoma Raceway, some 400 miles north of Long Beach, announced today that Shell Oil Company has canceled the 2020 Shell Eco-marathon Americas event that had been scheduled for April 1-4.
Michaelian on Wednesday issued a statement which reads: “We are actively monitoring the situation and working with the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our attendees, which is our top priority.
“Some of the precautions we and our partners will be taking include making sure all of our attendees have access to fully-stocked handwashing stations as well as alcohol-based hand sanitizer. In addition, we will ensure that frequently touched surfaces are routinely cleaned and disinfected.
“At this time, the threat to the general public is low and there are no changes planned to the regular operation of our event this April 17-19.”
Michaelian went on to tell Motorsport.com today: “We, like most of the other event operators [in Southern California] such as the Dodgers, Angels, Disneyland, etc. are in constant contact with the Los Angeles County Health Department as well as, in our case, the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department for any updates in the situation, as well as additional measures that they would recommend be adopted at our race.
“In the meantime, we are looking to implement the procedures that have currently been outlined, and will be in effect on Grand Prix weekend.
“Our planning for the event continues full speed ahead and there’s been no conversation about any deviation from the course at this time.”
Meanwhile, similar sentiments have been expressed by organizers of next week's IndyCar season-opener in St. Petersburg, FL, according to The Tampa Bay Times. An official statement from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg stated: "Don’t expect any disruptions to the event schedule.”
The Times went on to quote the organizers as saying: “We are also working closely with the City of St. Petersburg and all racing series to ensure the well-being of our spectators, volunteers, employees and event participants with next weekend’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"We are asking everyone associated with the event to follow basic hygiene precautions as recommended by the CDC, such as frequent hand-washing, use of hand sanitizer and covering coughs and sneezes appropriately.”
Meanwhile the fourth round of the IndyCar championship is to be held at Circuit of The Americas, just outside Austin, TX, which today canceled its South by South West (SXSW) tech convention due to coronavirus concerns.
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