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Thousands attend racing event in North Carolina despite health guidelines

Thousands attend racing event in North Carolina despite health guidelines
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Thousands of fans attended a car racing event in North Carolina on Saturday despite the governor’s health guidelines for the state.

Ace Speedway held its season opener in Elon, N.C., attracting at least 2,500 people to the speedway, which holds 5,000, co-owner Jason Turner told NBC affiliate WXII. Most people did not wear face masks, according to local reports.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) had authorized the state to move into the second phase of reopening, forbidding gatherings of more than 25 people outside, but Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said he would not “enforce an unconstitutional law,” allowing the race to be held, ABC affiliate WTVD reported

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In a Facebook video before the event, Turner told fans to respect each other’s space and to wash their hands frequently, with no mention of face coverings. He encouraged people to write their names and phone numbers on pads at the entrances to help the county’s health department if someone from the event ended up having the coronavirus.

Turner told WXII that glass barriers were also added to ticket booths and concession stands and that hand sanitizer was available around the speedway.

Ace Speedway was supposed to open on March 27 when the pandemic forced the shutdown of events to avoid spreading the coronavirus. But Turner said the speedway needed money to operate and that people should be able to decide what they’re comfortable doing.

"People have the right to choose where they go and what they do. As we reopen, people are trying to have a sense of normalcy and when somebody physically buys a ticket, a general admission ticket, to come to a race, they are in a sense saying that they want to be there ... and they got what they paid for,” he told WXII.

North Carolina saw its coronavirus case count jump on Saturday to its highest single-day increase during the pandemic. Currently, the state has confirmed at least 23,964 cases, leading to 754 deaths, according to the state health department.