By AP | June 9, 2020 at 2:14 PM EDT – Updated June 9 at 3:44 PM
ALTAMAHAW, N.C. (WBTV/AP) – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Tuesday issued an Abatement Order requiring ACE Speedway to “immediately close their facility and halt operations.”
“The Speedway’s recent actions constitute an imminent hazard for the spread of COVID-19, an acute threat to North Carolinians which must not continue,” a release from NCDHHS stated.
Officials say the speedway admitted more than 2,500 – and possibly as many as 4,000 – spectators to attend races held at the track on May 23, May 30 and June 6.
While the Abatement Order halts operations, it does allow ACE Speedway to “propose a new plan which could allow races to resume, under the condition that steps be taken to adhere to the restrictions in place regarding mass gathering numbers and social distancing precautions.”
The order comes one day after an Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said he wouldn’t cite the stock car speedway for violating the state’s prohibition against mass gatherings due to COVID-19 after another large crowd gathered there for races.
The sheriff’s announcement appeared to open the door for Gov. Roy Cooper to seek legal action against the owner of Ace Speedway. Cooper’s executive order caps most outdoor meetings to 25 people. Media outlets have reported crowds at the speedway exceeding 2,000, including Saturday.
Johnson says he’s got reservations about the order’s legality. Cooper called the speedway’s opening to crowds a “reckless decision.”
NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen shared Cooper’s sentiment in Tuesday’s press release.
“Across the state, North Carolinians are making huge sacrifices to protect their families and neighbors. This virus is highly contagious and very dangerous,” Cohen said. “Bad actors who flagrantly violate public health orders put all of our families and loved ones at risk.”
Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.