MJC launches Wellness Committee to support backstretch workers

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: March 25, 2020

The Maryland Jockey Club, as part of its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, has launched a Wellness Committee to check in on those employed on the backstretch.

Major Mike Singletary, MJC Director of Security, said a couple of hospitality employees who are fluent in Spanish were deployed to walk around the barn area and visit grooms to ensure their needs are being met and to check on their health. MJC health officials will also be taking temperatures.

“It’s for the folks that live on the property, to give them comfort, check on them and get feedback from them,” Singletary said March 23. “It’s in the trial stage and hopefully they’ll be receptive.”

The MJC recently enacted a new policy whereby anyone who comes through the stable gate gets a short questionnaire based on Centers for Disease Control protocol every seven days, and their temperatures are taken every day by a health professional. Different color stickers are affixed to official Maryland Racing Commission badges after each weekly questionnaire is answered to keep track of their status.

“We probably have about 350 people come through the stable gate every day” including trainers, exercise riders, vets, and vendors, Singletary said.

The MJC also has asked trainers to notify security if an employee hasn’t shown up for work for two or three days so they can have a wellness check.

“We want to thank everybody for their cooperation,” Singletary said. “It’s a trying time but it’s a plus because cooperation and communication is the key. We have a large population here (in dormitories) and it looks like people are self-quarantining. The response has been fantastic.”

The recreation room at Laurel Park now has limited hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day so backstretch workers can check their mailboxes. The adjacent track kitchen remains open until 7 p.m. each day for take-out food. The emphasis has been on social distancing while continuing to provide necessary services.

The stable areas at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course remain closed to owners and other non-essential personnel but training continues daily. Public areas of both facilities have been closed since March 13.

(Laurel Park photo courtesy of MTHA)