EDITORIAL: Local dirt-track programs sent wrong message, should not have been held
Look, we get it.
No one likes to be cooped up inside for days on end, especially when the weather is nice.
That’s especially true in times of crisis, when we are all in desperate need of distractions.
The torrent of bad news, combined with the fact that we can’t leave our homes to get away from it, can certainly lead to anxiety and depression.
Still, the prudent thing to do during the coronavirus pandemic is be overly cautious, not obstinately cavalier.
That’s why the decisions of three area dirt tracks (Lincoln, Port Royal and Williams Grove speedways) to hold racing programs over the weekend were the wrong moves.
Yes, the regional tracks had the right to race. At the time, there was no government mandate to ban racing programs.
Early this week, however, Gov. Tom Wolf "strongly urged" the shuttering of all nonessential businesses. That would certainly include the dirt tracks, although Wolf has also said he would not force the tracks to shut down.
Nevertheless, racing over the weekend sent the wrong message. Future racing would send an even worse message.
Need for social distancing: Nearly all of our health experts are preaching about the absolute necessity of social distancing.
That’s pretty hard to achieve when fans are sitting side by side in the grandstands while watching cars go roaring around a dirt track.
In fact, Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that sporting events and other large gatherings of 50 or more be called off for the next eight weeks.
There were certainly more than 50 people at each of the regional tracks. There were at least hundreds of folks at each of the facilities — maybe thousands.
The arguments from the racing folks: We know the arguments that are coming from the folks who attended the races.
It’s a free country and we had the right to go.
The conronavirus outbreak hasn’t hit this region yet and has been overstated.
We’re only endangering ourselves.
Countering the arguments: They are right about the first point. It’s a free country and they had the right to go, but we really don’t know if the coronavirus has hit the region yet. Not everyone in the region who is sick has been tested.
In fact, it’s very likely there are coronavirus victims in our midst and we just don’t know about them yet, and there will almost certainly be coronavirus victims detected here very soon.
Finally, the folks at the track were not endangering just themselves. If they were infected with the coronavirus at the track, they would be exposing everyone they met after they left the track with the disease. That would most definitely include those nearest and dearest to those race fans — their friends and family members.
That is simply not right. Your freedom to unencumbered assembly ends when you start putting the health of others at risk.
Independent breed: Race-car fans and drivers are a hardy and independent sort.
The drivers are certainly not risk-averse.
And the fans and drivers definitely don’t like anyone telling them what to do.
Many of the folks at the track probably feel that the extent of the outbreak has been vastly overstated and that we, as a nation, are in panic mode.
That may very well be true, but in a situation such as this, we must err on the side of caution.
Going against the tide in the sports world: The rest of the organized sports world seems to understand that.
Nearly every national and local event was shut down over the weekend. That includes auto racing organizations such as NASCAR, IndyCar and the World of Outlaws.
In fact, only five race tracks reportedly held programs nationally last weekend and three of them were in central Pennsylvania.
The dirt-track fans in the stands this past weekend would likely look at that fact with pride — proof that they are unafraid of some pesky virus.
They would be wrong. We should all be afraid and we should all be cautious.