Despite the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of motorcyclists will descend upon Daytona Beach, Florida for the city’s annual Bike Week event.
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The city has reached an agreement with local bars for 60% indoor capacity in return for permits necessary for temporary outdoor sales and entertainment.
“I’m grateful to be open for Bike Week, grateful that the city allowed the vendors and the full Bike Week thing,” said Bobby Honeycutt, owner of Froggy’s Saloon, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal as the 10-day event began Friday. The bar is limited to 102 customers inside, but is serving from tubs and bars outside.
The Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event, estimates 300,000 to 400,000 motorcyclists will attend. It typically draws 500,000.
“We know it’s likely to be less just because of COVID concerns, as well as many still struggling to make ends meet due to loss of income from COVID,” said Janet Kersey, the chamber’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Sam Acquaro is attending his 46th straight Bike Week, even though he believes his son caught the virus at last year’s, which happened just as the pandemic began spreading around the country and world. He is staying outdoors.
“It really attacked him, and he had to have caught that here,” he said. “So I haven’t been in a restaurant since.”
At John’s Rock N Ride souvenir store, owner Johnny Sanchez was selling a lot more $3 beers than the designer masks he offered for $7. Almost no one is wearing them.
“As far as masks are concerned, they are paying little attention to that,” Sanchez said, with a shrug. “It’s just the way it is. What can you do?”
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While the event will continue as planned, city officials are hoping to avoid a coronavirus outbreak similar to an incident which occurred at a Sturgis, South Dakota motorcycle rally in August.
About 19 percent of 1.4 million new coronavirus cases in the U.S. between Aug. 2 and Sept. 2 were linked back to the motorcycle event, according to according to researchers from San Diego State University’s Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies. That’s more than 266,000 coronavirus cases attributed to the 10-day event, which more than 460,000 people attended despite fears it could become a so-called super-spreader event.
“We conclude that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally generated public health costs of approximately $12.2 billion,” the researchers wrote in a paper. “This is enough to have paid each of the estimated 462,182 rally attendees $26,553.64 not to attend.”
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Bike Week comes as health officials are expecting a surge in travel to the state as college students from across the country hit the beach for spring break.
Health experts have also urged Americans to remain vigilant as some states start to roll back coronavirus restrictions.
Several variants of the COVID-19 virus have been identified across the United States, including a new variant in New York – which Dr. Anthony Fauci said is spreading “efficiently” through the state – in addition to the already-documented South Africa and United Kingdom variants.
At the same time, Texas and Mississippi announced Wednesday that they were removing mask mandates and lifting other restrictions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 90.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of Sunday. The state of Florida accounted for over 5.9 million of those doses administered.
Volusia County, where Daytona Beach is located, reported a total of 34,583 cases as of Sunday, including 576 nonresidents, according to the latest data from Florida’s Department of Health. There are currently 1,793 people hospitalized in the county and 677 related deaths.
Fox News’ Peter Aiken, Evie Fordham, and the Associated Press contributed to this report