County and statewide positivity rates aren’t encouraging.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of new virus variants, the 80th annual Daytona Bike Week pressed on. From March 5, 2021, through March 14, 2021, Florida’s Daytona Beach region welcomed more than 300,000 bikers and numerous motorcycle events. Of course, we covered the lack of health guidelines enforcement at the 10-day festival, and two weeks after the 2021 rally, Florida’s COVID-19 cases are on the rise.
Florida’s Volusia and Flagler counties host Bike Week events and attendees throughout the annual gathering. On March 26, 2021, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Volusia County experienced a 41 percent surge in COVID-19 cases. Flagler County wasn’t far behind with a 24 percent jump. Statewide, the numbers reflect a 3 percent increase in cases two weeks following the 2021 Daytona Beach bash.
"Given that the majority of the population was unvaccinated at the time of the event and the lack of adherence to safe COVID-19 guidelines, evidenced by pictures from the event, COVID-19 spread was likely," University of Central Florida infectious disease epidemiologist Makella Coudray told The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
"Continued gatherings of this magnitude, prior to herd immunity being reached, can facilitate the spread of COVID-19, which is of particular concern as new variants have emerged with increased disease morbidity."
The increasing positivity rate in both counties also concerns health officials. By March 25, 2021, Volusia County’s 14-day positivity rate rose to 7.18 percent. In contrast, Volusia only reported a 5.7% infection rate the two weeks prior (February 26, 2021 through March 11, 2021). The numbers in neighboring Flagler County were even more concerning, with the positivity rates moving from 8.7 percent to 9.7 percent over the same 14-day periods.
It’s also worth noting that local government officials and business owners are reluctant to single out the annual rally as the lone culprit.
“It’s also spring break,” noted Daytona Beach business owner Tom Caffrey. “It’s natural that the numbers will go up. Hospitality businesses are busting at the seams, the hotels are at capacity; it’s just that time of year. It’s not just Bike Week.”
Of course, that doesn’t rule out Daytona Bike Week as a contributor. However, the confluence of events and the emergence of new virus variants make the situation even more delicate.
Yes, the 10-day festival represented a return to normalcy for many attendees and Florida businesses, but it was also responsible for six motorcycle-related deaths and increased COVID-19 spread. Without thorough contact tracing of Bike Week attendees, we may never know the true impact of the 10-day festival. Hopefully, that doesn’t lead to the past repeating itself (again) at future motorcycle gatherings.