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Kentucky Derby to run Sept. 5, with fans in the stands

With Major League Baseball bracing for a return, the NFL should pay close attention to the example MLB is setting with their COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

While it’s unclear at the moment whether NFL teams will be able to play in front of customers when the season is scheduled to start in mid-September, another large sporting event is going to try to have fans in the stands.

Churchill Downs Racetrack just announced that the Kentucky Derby would be run on Sept. 5, with some degree of fans onsite, and masks “consistently and frequently encouraged” but not required.

The announcement did not specify how many fans would be allowed to the event, which was originally scheduled for May, and postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s race drew over 150,000 people.

The release just referred to “venue capacity reductions to limit crowd density,” with reduced credentials for employees, media, and guests.

“We truly appreciate the leadership of the Governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, and all of the hard work, collaboration and guidance that state and local officials and public health experts have provided us to safely and responsibly host Kentucky Derby Week in September with spectators,” Churchill Downs Racetrack president Kevin Flanery said in the statement. “Our team is deeply committed to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have established a comprehensive set of operating procedures, which include a multitude of precautionary measures to be followed while fans are in attendance at our facility. We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can.”

The degree of those limitations will be the key, as large events are still off-limits in many areas.

The NFL is scheduled to open its season the following week, and every expectation is that it will be in front of a limited audience, if people are in stadiums at all.