Golden Gate Fields COVID outbreak affects 200 people, racing suspended

More than 200 people living or working on-site at Golden Gate Fields racetrack in Berkeley have tested positive in an outbreak of COVID-19, city officials confirm. 

Berkeley's public health department said they are working with the racetrack, operated by 1/ST Racing, to ensure proper testing, quarantine and isolation methods are followed. 

"All those who have tested positive are isolated off-site, following federal, state and City guidelines. The track is assisting with off-site housing for those who have tested positive and has arranged for twice daily food delivery to ensure that those individuals do not have to leave isolation and have the essential items they require," said Matthai Chakko with the Berkeley city manager's office. 

In addition, he said Golden Gate Field's on-site medical director is an infectious disease expert. 
The racetrack on the Berkeley-Albany border remains closed at least until the end of the month. 

In a previous statement, racetrack officials said there were 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to the stable area since Oct. 30th. But reports surfaced that said the outbreak had reached more like 100 workers.

There is employee housing near the stables so workers can be near the horses.

Golden Gate Fields said all information has been reported to Berkeley public health. The statement said, "Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Golden Gate Fields has implemented stringent health and safety measures including strict social distancing and masking policies and regular COVID-19 testing with isolation requirements for any positive cases or identified close contacts."

"An outbreak like that should never occur," said Dr, John Swartzberg of UC Berkeley, who specializes in infectious diseases. He questions whether the track and the workers consistently followed safety protocols regarding masks and social distancing.

"For a large group of people to get infected means a large group of people has to be together for a long time. That should never happen particularly in the middle of a pandemic, especially right now," he said.

Last Friday Golden Gate Fields announced a one-week temporary closure, which has now been extended through Nov. 30th. 

"All track facilities have undergone a thorough cleaning and track-wide COVID-19 testing has been administered to all racing employees and to all those who work on the backstretch," tracks officials said. 

"An outbreak like this is going to take an enormous amount of resources, time, and energy and of course money, to deal with," said Swartzberg.

The track said the 1,300 horses that are in their stables there are getting the daily care and exercise they require.