Backlash continues after crowded demolition derby appears to violate COVID-19 guidelines

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HOOPESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — A crowded demolition derby last night is raising a lot of concern. A lot of you have reached out to us about that event because almost no one there seemed to be wearing masks or social distancing.

You didn’t have to be close to the derby to see the size of the crowd gathered there. Vermilion County Public Health Administrator Doug Toole says they’ve gotten dozens of complaints about it.

“Complaints tend to be about capacity. Even before the event, folks were concerned… how are they going to be able to get folks in and have them socially distance?”

Toole met with the organizers before it happened. He says it seemed they were taking precautions.

“He spray-painted some areas on the ground so cars and trucks could park so the vehicles could still be six feet away from each other, but people could sit in the bed of the trucks and watch from there,” explained Toole. There weren’t any public health officials at the event, so Toole says it may be hard to figure out many people were there.

“I don’t know if we’re every going to be able to tell if the number of tickets sold for the event were appropriate for what we discussed ahead of time,” said Toole. But he says it wasn’t just the sheer number alone that’s troubling.

“What clearly happened is that audience members decided to not follow the guidelines as far as masking and social distancing went,” he explained. He plans to talk to the organizers about what happened, but it will likely be more educational than consequential. He added that the responsibility doesn’t lie in their hands alone.

“We’re looking at a bunch of audience members who took it upon themselves to jam in, in very close proximity to each other, regardless of the fact that we’re in a pandemic right now,” said Toole. “Unfortunately we’re just left hoping that we don’t see the disease spread because of this.”

It’s too early to say if any COVID-19 cases came out of the derby. Public health officials recommend people who went get tested in two or three days. Hoopeston Mayor Bill Crusenberry says the crowd was more than they anticipated, but that the city had nothing to do with the event other than allowing it. We reached out to organizers but haven’t heard back.

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