Nearly 300,000 people expected at Florida motorcycle rally despite pandemic
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida - As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter every day life for many, a number of avid bikers are refusing to let the health crisis put a damper on Daytona Beach's Bike Week event.
A recent CNN report stated that the rally, which is currently underway, is expected to draw more than 300,000 people over its 10-day long schedule of events.
Daytona Beach's Bike Week kicked off last Friday (March 5) and ends Sunday; the event includes concerts, races and bike shows.
"Typically in the past (attendance) was estimated between 400,000 and 500,000 for the 10 days over this entire area," Daytona Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and COO Janet Kersey told CNN in an email Tuesday.
"This year we know because of continued Covid-19 concerns and the loss of income many have had over this past year, it will be less. A reasonable estimate would be around 300,000+," Kersey wrote.
With weather forecasters calling for clear skies and headlines reporting that more individuals are successfully vaccinated against COVID-19, the number of attendees may be even higher than expected.
"We know our hotels are doing well with strong occupancy numbers reported to the Volusia County Hotel & Lodging Association," Kersey wrote.
Kersey said the City Council considered canceling the event because of the pandemic, but was "very meticulous in its decision to move forward."
Daytona Beach officials said they were altering the event to help prevent the spread of the virus. That includes limiting some merchants to 60% indoor capacity, CNN reports.
The news outlet also reports that the city is asking residents and visitors to wear masks indoors, and when physical distancing isn't possible.
At this time, Florida does not have a statewide mask mandate.
Kersey said the city also has introduced more signage urging precautions like masking, and is implementing motorcycle-only traffic zones to allow for better social distancing, CNN reports.
In addition to this, the Daytona Police Department has implemented safety precautions. The department is using drones instead of people for surveillance in certain places, and limiting the number of officers responding to a incidents.
There is concern that the majority of people milling around during the event, often in close contact with one another, will not be wearing masks.
The city said it expects large crowds, especially at night, in several locations including Main Street, International Speedway Boulevard, and North Beach Street, CNN reports.
Last August's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, which drew about 460,000 people over 10 days, was linked to dozens of COVID-19 cases in neighboring Minnesota alone, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2021 marks the Daytona Beach event's 80th anniversary.
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