The self acclaimed largest motorcycle rally in the Midwest is set to kick off its five day event. Tens of thousands have flocked to Missouri for the 14th annual Bikefest Lake of the Ozarks. Missouri is one of the states with the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases.
The event drew in almost 125,000 people last year. The motorcycle rally comes after many criticized South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcyle Rally last month.
Saint Louis’s former acting health director called out Missouri’s governor Mike Parson for allowing the event to take place. She criticized the lack of social distancing guidelines in place amid a global pandemic.
Organizers are holding Bikefest in an area with high COVID-19 cases.
Starting on June 16, Missouri lifted all statewide restrictions. The state left it up to local officials to create restrictions on capacity limits, mask mandates and curfews.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force has recommended bars and restaurants be closed or restricted in “yellow” or “red” zones within the state. Both zone colors signal a moderate to high number of COVID-19 cases. According to a recent task force letter, red or yellow zones make up 67% of the state including Camden and Miller counties where the rally is to take place.
Camden reported 186 new cases in the past two weeks, and Miller reported 123 new cases, according to the University of Missouri’s tracking site. The region is also seeing its highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began, according to the hospital association.
Missouri ranks third in the nation behind North Dakota and South Dakota in new cases over the past week.
In August, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally drew 500,000 bikers to South Dakota over a 10 day period. Since then, COVID-19 cases rose in both South Dakota and North Dakota, with the rally partially to blame. The Center for Health Economics at San Diego University estimated, in a study, the rally led to more 260,000 new coronavirus cases nationwide and resulted in more than $12 billion in healthcare costs.
Since then, Johns Hopkins University researchers have questioned the study. But they agreed the data showed the Sturgis rally led to a spike in cases in the surrounding areas.
[H/T: Saint Louis Post-Dispatch]