MJC recommends precautions regarding coronavirus

The Maryland Jockey Club is taking precautionary measures in its barn areas and racetrack enclosures regarding coronavirus (COVID-19).

During a backstretch community meeting at Laurel Park March 5, Major Mike Singletary, Director Security for the MJC, said various procedures and protocols are being put in place at all racing facilities owned by The Stronach Group. The company held a meeting to that effect earlier in the day.

"Everybody is taking the same precautionary measures for all residents of the backside," Singletary said. "It's very important."

Regarding workers who travel home to other countries to renew visas, Singletary said should they become ill, they should see one of the on-site MedStar physicians upon their return. In addition, three empty dormitory rooms will be set aside for quarantine use should it become necessary.

Hand-sanitizing stations are being placed around the barn area and also in the grandstand and clubhouse. Printed materials in English and Spanish regarding coronavirus will be available in MTHA offices in the grandstand and track kitchen at Laurel.

Ryan Allen, MJC Director of Health and Safety, said that of confirmed COVID-19 cases, 80% result in only mild illness. But he said that doesn't mean precautionary measures aren't important.

"We're getting disposable thermometers that we'll be handing out over the next few days," Allen said. "It's very important that if you're feeling sick you take your temperature—it's the way to better determine what the next steps are. We also encourage trainers that if any workers appear ill, they should allow them to take a day off."

Allen recommended that if someone has a temperature of 99 degrees or more, the individual should contact a doctor or contact the MJC ambulance crew, which is on site day to day. MedStar physicians are on site at Laurel on live racing days as part of the Horsemen's Health System.

"The most important thing you can do is wash your hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds," Allen said of preventative measures.

The following information was provided earlier by the MJC and National Thoroughbred Racing Association as an advisory regarding COVID-19.

Symptoms: Based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses the Centers for Disease Control believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. The symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Prevention: There is currently no vaccine, though one is being developed. The CDC recommends everyday preventative actions, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched objects using a household cleaning spray or wipes.
  •  Follow the CDC's recommendations for using a facemask.
  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory disease.
  • Facemasks should be worn by people who show symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.

The NTRA also circulated an advisory on COVID-19 that notes the following in relation to the equine industry:

"Coronavirus is believed to have spread via live animals sold for food at a market in the city of Wuhan, China. Dr. Peter Timoney, former director of the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, stated that there is no evidence to date confirming that horses have been found to be a host for the current coronavirus, which is good news for those concerned about interspecies communication of the virus.

"In 2012, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was found to be transmitted through close exposure to camels. The interspecies communication issue will be closely watched, however, because scientists still do not know with certainty the intermediary host between certain bats that are known carriers of COVID-19 and humans."

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