More Than 51,000 People — Many Unmasked — Attended The Kentucky Derby

by Kristine Cannon
Kentucky Derby maskless
Michael Hickey/Getty Images for Churchill Downs

Many spectators were shocked to see so many unmasked attendees at the annual event

After it was held sans fans last year, the Kentucky Derby welcomed attendees to the grand event this year — more than 51,000 of them, marking the largest crowd to gather at a sporting event in the U.S. since the onset of the pandemic. And while Twitter was ablaze with tweets about the Kentucky Derby race (including some applauding Steve Kornacki for accurately picking the winner, Medina Spirit), many were shocked to see so many attendees without masks on.

According to organizers, the official attendance at this year’s Derby was 51,838, a far cry from 150,000-plus fans who usually attend the annual event.

And of those thousands attendees, many were caught with their masks down — or completely off — despite the COVID-19 restrictions put in place by Churchill Downs, including temperature checks and masks requirements. According to Churchill Downs, guests are only allowed to unmask when in their seats or actively eating and drinking. Children under 5, on the other hand, were not required to wear masks.

Horsephotos/Getty Images

Getty Images

However, during NBC’s live coverage of Derby Day, many maskless attendees were seen gathering to watch Tori Kelly’s performance of the national anthem, local outlet WHAS 11 reported.

“We have been seeing a lot of people wear one, but we’ve also been seeing a lot of people not wearing a face covering,” a WHAS 11 reporter states. “Churchill Downs says they will be enforcing the mask mandate, but frankly, we haven’t seen a lot of that. What we have seen, though, are staff members holding signs reminding people to put them on.”

The station reached out to Churchill Downs regarding the amount of people seen maskless, and they responded with the following statement:

“We have a health and safety compliance team monitoring all sections of the track reminding guests of this policy. We ask our fans to join us in our commitment to keeping Oaks and Derby safe by complying with all state health protocols as well as those we have established and communicated at Churchill Downs.”

The Associated Press also reported on the lack of face masks at the event, writing that “hundreds stood in lines that were not spaced out to use ATMs or buy food.”

And, according to The Lexington Herald-Leader, many attendees wore face coverings on their chins or around their necks. “Mostly, they were nowhere to be found,” the newspaper reports.

While the CDC did state earlier this week that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks when alone or with small groups outdoors, they did, however, recommend all people — vaccinated or not — wear masks when in crowded places, including outdoors.