In what's proving to be a hotbed for COVID-19 infections, managers at Golden Gate Fields — the still-closed horse racing track in Albany — have now reported 200-plus employees have tested positive for coronavirus; this figure is double what was initially reported on Friday.
Before the weekend, Berkelyside broke the news (which we nodded at in a prior post) that some 100 staff at Golden Gate Fields had tested positive for the novel respiratory disease, spiking Berkeley’s total case count to 1,050 overnight.
It's been a long, hard, and for many, lonely year. Of course we want to spend holidays with our loved ones.— City of Berkeley 😷 (@CityofBerkeley) November 21, 2020
But with COVID-19 surging, the safest thing - for you and for them - is to stay home and celebrate virtually. https://t.co/vKYY6hvlsa pic.twitter.com/YknLKkxRxk
However, it looks like we can now add at least another 100 to that tally. Mind you: these new additions to Berkeley's COVID-19 caseload are also in the midst of state-wide increases in coronavirus infections — ahead of a holiday that perpetuates mass gatherings and, nowadays, long-flung air travel.
As reported by ABC7 Saturday, more than 200 people staffed by the horse race track have currently tested positive for COVID-19.
(Though the race track is located in Albany, the massive horse stable — where staff live and work — is located in Berkeley, which is why these new caseloads are included in Berkeley's COVID-19 count.)
"City of Berkeley Public Health continues to work closely with Golden Gate Fields on a significant outbreak where more than 200 people living or working on-site at the racetrack have tested positive for COVID-19. 1/ST Racing, which operates the track, is following all of the City's recommendations for testing, quarantine, and isolation," a Berkeley City spokesperson said in a statement published by ABC7.
It's common practice for staff tpmlive on site at horse race tracks to tend to the present animals. Golden Gate Fields's stable is home to more than 1,300 horses, each requiring daily feeding, exercise, and socialization. Managers of the race track note that some 400 people live around a stable area, a figure confirmed by Multi-Cultural Institute in Berkeley.
Based on the inherent close conditions needed to tend to the animals — groomers, trainers, and other race track hands working in tandem to ensure the horses are properly maintained — it's little wonder how such a large outbreak transpired.
"They are the caretakers of the horses," said Director Mirna Cervantes. "They live above the stables and you can see them as you're driving past on the freeway. They are a very vulnerable population that hasn't taken advantage or had access to the services provided by organizations like ourselves or the city of Berkeley."
Berkeleyside in their initial reporting on the outbreak noted Friday’s 100-case-spike was the single largest one-day coronavirus spike in Berkeley since the city’s first case was reported in late February; more test results are pending, according to managers of the race track.
All horse races at the track have been canceled for the rest of November
Alas, it goes without saying: wear a mask, practice proper social distancing, and, with Thanksgiving just a few days away, think twice — maybe thrice — about your yet-embarked-on travel plans.
Image: Horse racing continues at Golden Gate Fields with no fans in attendance due to coronavirus concerns on March 19, 2020 in Berkeley, California. As millions of people in the San Francisco Bay Area are under a shelter-in-place order due to COVID-19, horse racing at Golden Gate Fields continues but the events are not open to the public. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)