Maryland Establishes COVID-19 Testing Site at Pimlico in Baltimore

Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore has been transformed from a thoroughbred track to a COVID-19 testing area for the residents living in the neighborhoods surrounding the historic venue.

Members of the Maryland National Guard set up drive-through testing sites at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The neighborhoods near the track have the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any other in the state. (Image: Maj. Kurt Rauschenberg, Maryland National Guard)

The drive-through testing, which started Friday, comes as the area is considered a hot spot by Maryland officials for the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. According to a COVID-19 dashboard produced by Maryland officials, there are 155 cases identified in the ZIP code where Pimlico stands. That’s the highest of any ZIP code in the state.

It’s also more than double the cases the ZIP code had as of last Thursday, according to the Baltimore Sun.

As of Monday morning, the state itself has 8,936 confirmed cases and 262 deaths.

We are being as proactive as anyone in the country on this so that Marylanders can better understand the spread of this deadly virus,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan explained in a tweet about the state’s dashboard that was introduced on Sunday.

The test site, the first of its kind in Baltimore, was set up by the Maryland National Guard in less than a week. Besides the National Guard, the Baltimore City Health Department and the state Office of Emergency Management are operating the site.

While the site is open, it’s available by appointment only. Baltimore residents need to call 2-1-1 to participate in a telephone screening that determines if they can be considered for testing.

Preakness Postponed by COVID-19

The 2020 meet at Pimlico was set to resume on May 7. However, that’s likely going to be canceled or postponed now, as Hogan issued an order last month closing the state’s tracks and casinos indefinitely.

Earlier this month, The Stronach Group and the Maryland Jockey Club announced they would seek a new date for the Preakness Stakes, the marquee event for the three-week meet. Last month, Churchill Downs announced the first Triple Crown race, the Kentucky Derby, was pushed back from May 2 to Sept. 5 by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Preakness was initially scheduled for May 16 at Pimlico.

“Our first priority in these difficult times is the health and well-being of our customers, our vendors, our employees, and the horses we all love,” the statement from The Stronach Group and Mayland Jockey Club read. “A decision will be made on a new date for Preakness 145 and will take into consideration all of the recommended best practices from local and governmental health authorities to protect our community.”

Pimlico Renovation Legislation Before Governor

Gov. Hogan, meanwhile, has a bill on his desk that the Maryland General Assembly approved last month that would issue $375 million to renovate and upgrade the state’s racing facilities. That includes at least $180 million for Pimlico.

In the past year, the future of Pimlico had sparked debate in the state, as The Stronach Group touted a plan that would have closed Pimlico and moved the Preakness to Laurel Park, a track it owns that’s located halfway between Baltimore and Washington, DC. Baltimore leaders objected and took the matter to court.

Last October, the two sides forged an agreement that became the basis of Senate Bill 987. The bill stipulates the Preakness must be run at the Baltimore track.

The Maryland General Assembly passed the bill on March 18, and Hogan has 30 days from then to consider a veto or sign it into law.

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