GRAHAM, N.C. — Alamance County government officials said in a news release Tuesday night they were “puzzled” by Gov. Roy Cooper’s comments regarding this past weekend’s event at ACE Speedway.
“It is dangerous and reckless to try and draw a crowd and I hope and pray that no one gets sick or even dies from that gathering,” Cooper said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon, addressing the Saturday race that drew thousands of spectators.
Last week, ahead of ACE Speedway reopening, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said, “When I took my oath of office, I swore to uphold the United States Constitution. I will not enforce an unconstitutional law. Upon hearing the opinion of the County Attorney, I do not intend to stop ACE Speedway from opening on Saturday, May 23.”
On Tuesday afternoon, FOX8 asked Cooper if he would enforce restrictions at the speedway if the county would not.
“That is a dangerous situation that ought to concern all the local officials and all the citizens surrounding that venue. All of the options are on the table for us and we are examining those options now,” Cooper replied.
On Tuesday evening, the Alamance County Government released the following statement:
“Alamance County Government officials were puzzled by Governor Cooper’s comments regarding ACE Speedway during the media update on Tuesday, May 26, since no one from the Governor’s office has reached out directly to the county, even after the county requested guidance and input. Local governments across North Carolina have asked repeatedly to have a voice in how the COVID restrictions impact their communities. However, those requests have not been addressed.
“Alamance County Government has repeatedly reached out to Governor Cooper and NCDHHS for guidance in how to assist ACE Speedway to operate in a safe manner.
“Alamance County sent a letter to the Governor on April 20, requesting that a regional approach to reopening be considered and that local governments participate in decision making. The County has not received a direct response to its letter.
“On May 11, 2020, Alamance County Government officials, Jason Turner of ACE Speedway, and Matt Gross, the Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs at the NC Department of Health and Human Services, participated in a conference call, discussing how ACE Speedway could safely operate during Phase 2. Mr. Gross stated that it was not known whether Phase 2 would begin on May 22 and that it was not known what capacity businesses such as ACE Speedway could expect, but it would likely be between 25-50% of fire code. A document entitled, ‘Precaution Requirements for ACE Speedway’ was developed through collaboration between NCDHHS, the Alamance County Health Department, and ACE Speedway. Jason Turner assured Alamance County on multiple occasions that he intended to follow the recommended protocols at ACE Speedway.
“After reviewing Executive Order 141 on Wednesday, May 20, Alamance County had questions about its applicability and enforcement. On Thursday, May 21, at 9:00 a.m., Alamance County Government officials, Robert Turner of ACE Speedway, and Mau Gross of DHHS participated in a conference call. Mr. Gross was made aware of Alamance County’s concerns and questions. He stated that, not being an attorney, he could not advise the county, and he promised to forward the county’s concerns to the Governor’s staff and that someone would get back to the county. Alamance County has yet to hear directly from anyone with the Governor’s staff, NCDHHS, or anyone else in State government.
“The health and safety of its residents continues to be the highest priority of Alamance County. Alamance County has investigated the precautions taken last Saturday night at ACE Speedway, and has verified the following: 2550 spectators on a 50 acre property (approximately 50% of fire capacity); rosters for contact tracing were provided; 10 feet distance between each car in the pit area, recommended masks and 6 feet social distancing in pit area; multiple hand sanitizer stations provided; precaution signage; Plexiglas partitions where appropriate; marks of 6 feet of spacing in lines and high traffic areas; one-way arrows for traffic through the restrooms; public announcements every 30 minutes to remind spectators to social distance and wash hands; restrooms and other public areas sanitized regularly; and limits on the number of people in the infield and outfield.“