MERRITT — Merritt Speedway is not closing down.
On Thursday, District Health Department No. 10 issued a warning to people who had been to the racetrack on Saturday, July 25, warning them that an asymptomatic person who subsequently tested postive for the virus that causes COVID-19, had been at the racetrack.
But that person wasn't an employee, according to Merritt Speedway owner Mike Blackmer, so the racetrack is staying open for business this weekend through Labor Day.
The health department confirmed that the person who tested positive was a spectator.
Blackmer, citing his own health problems, said the speedway had done everything possible to keep customers safe.
"I myself don't want to get COVID and I tried to make sure that every one of my customers stay safe," Blackmer said. He said there's plenty of seating at the speedway so people can stay six feet apart and they've made changes to concessions, such has using packets for condiments. Bathrooms, the only indoor facilities at the racetrack, are cleaned hourly, Blackmer said.
Blackmer said he wishes the health department was providing more information about what other businesses the person who later tested positive for the coronavirus had visited.
"I think that'd be fair," he said.
Blackmer said it was his understanding that the Merritt Speedway was named by the health department "because I'm the biggest."
The health department said it has nothing to do with the size of his business — it's about how long the specator was there.
"When we hear that there was potential for others to be exposed. that's what elevates it to a public exposure," said Jeannine Taylor, spokesperson for District Health Department No. 10.
In Thursday's press release, the health department said "While DHD No. 10 will release information about public exposure sites when it is determined through investigation that it’s not possible to identify all close contacts, everyone needs to remember that approximately 40% of COVID-19 cases appear to be asymptomatic. Asymptomatic cases are especially difficult because they are not sick and therefore not staying home. Additionally, contagious individuals can spread virus prior to experiencing symptoms."
The health department also urged anyone who had visited the speedway on July 25 to "self-monitor for symptoms" through Aug. 10. "Anyone that is self-monitoring as a result should keep away from family, close contacts, and roommates as much as possible. COVID-19 symptoms include fever or chills, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and recent loss of taste or smell. Anyone experiencing one or more of these symptoms should immediately quarantine themselves and contact a medical provider."