In its June 23rd edition, the New York Times reported that a worker at Belmont Park Racetrack died from hantavirus. The illness is typically contracted by “inhaling air contaminated with rodent droppings in confined spaces, or, in rare cases, via a bite”
The New York Racing Association runs Belmont as well as the Saratoga racetrack. NYRA had been taken over by the state and more recently re-established as a private organization. The conditions described in the article in which the mostly immigrant workers live are appalling. Inspectors from the New York State Department of Health ordered that 32 workers be moved from existing housing due to “dangerous conditions”.
Here are several quotes from the article:
“Drawn by the feasts of horse oats and refuse, rats often pass unimpeded from the barns through holes visible in the sides of the cinder-block dorms and small clapboard shacks where the workers live, according to workers who reside there. Rooms are often shared, and many are squalid, with mattresses or pallets on the floor, some with punched-out windows covered by cardboard. The workers asked not to be named because they feared reprisal for criticizing the facility, which is state-owned and operated by the racing association.”
“One worker, who said he has lived in the barracks on the racetrack grounds for 20 years, showed a reporter the roughly 10-by-12-foot room he shares with another man: Blotches of blood from crushed bedbugs stained the walls. Next to a pillow was a can of repellent with which his roommate sleeps.”
A spokesman for NYRA told the New York Times that they were working on addressing the problems. The question is how did they allow these conditions to develop and to continue for years.