300,000 expected to attend Florida motorcycle rally amid worries it could become superspreader event

300,000 expected to attend Florida motorcycle rally amid worries it could become superspreader event
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About 300,000 people are expected to attend a motorcycle rally in Florida this week amid worries that it could evolve into a superspreader event similar to last year’s Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota. 

This year, Daytona Beach is hosting the 80th anniversary of Bike Week, one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the country that started on March 5 and will continue through Sunday, The New York Times reported.  

But due to the pandemic and its economic effects, city officials expect the usual half a million attendees to drop to about 300,000 people. Janet Kersey, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, confirmed the expected number of visitors to The Hill on Wednesday. 

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“This year we know because of continued COVID concerns and the loss of income many have had over this past year, it will be less,” she told the Times.

“While our community is working hard to follow [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] safety guidelines, the support of the visitors and participants is important in these efforts as well for everyone’s safety,” she added.

The city has made some changes to this year’s rally, including limiting curbside parking and requiring merchants to follow CDC guidelines for masks and social distancing. Some businesses plan to only allow 60 percent indoor capacity.

Daytona Beach’s website calls on people to “Please follow the latest CDC COVID-19 guidance to ensure everyone’s safety,” adding that they “should wear face coverings when indoors and [when] physical distancing is not possible and wash hands often.”

Kersey told the Times that officials had mulled canceling the event due to the pandemic but the Daytona Beach City Council was “very meticulous in its decision to move forward.”

Daytona Beach police spokesman Messod Bendayan told the newspaper that he did not see many people wearing masks on the first day of the rally last week. Florida does not have a mask mandate, restaurant capacity limits or a required quarantine when entering the state.

Florida has seen an average of 4,948 new COVID-19 cases per day – a 16 percent drop from the average two weeks ago, according to the Times tracker. The state has seen the highest number of cases involving the more contagious variant originally discovered in the U.K., according to the CDC

Last year, the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota in August attracted more than 450,000 people, many of whom did not wear masks or social distance. Health officials later traced back other states’ outbreaks, including in Minnesota, to that rally.