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CoxHealth official calls upcoming motorcycle festival an ‘explosive petri dish’

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LAKE OZARK, Mo. – Three days into the 14th annual BikeFest at the Lake of the Ozarks, public health officials are speaking out against it, including CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards.

“It’s almost an explosive petri dish to me,” Edwards said. “We’ve got people coming from all over the country into a state that has one of the highest, current instant rates. And, then [festivalgoers] are going to go back to their home places and risk enhanced spread of this disease [COVID-19].”

Tens of thousands of bikers are expected before the festival ends on September 20, 2020. Last year, a total of 125,000 people went. A majority of them attended concerts, and hit the beaches and bars.

“The good news about being outdoors, and being on a motorcycle in the sunshine and wind, very safe,” Edwards said. “[COVID-19] is a crowd disease, though.”

In a pandemic-ridden year, Missouri ended its statewide safety restrictions in mid-June. Governor Mike Parson left it up to city leaders, and Lake Ozark decided not to follow any mandates. There are no mask requirements, along with limits for bars and restaurants. Edwards says gathering close, especially indoors, enhances the virus’ exposure risk.

“To the extent that people might do that, they’re going to be engaging in the highest risk behavior you could do to our knowledge of this disease,” Edwards said. “I understand it’s great to be outdoors, it’s great to be on a bike, [but] it’s that gathering indoors that’s a high risk.”

Edwards says Springfield had a record number of COVID-19 patients this week: 113. CoxHealth had 72.

“We’re at our highest mark, so there’s some strain going on,” Edwards said. “Likely, [Bikefest] will have some exposures that will affect people in central Missouri. But, even worse, mass spread to other states at a higher rate, probably. That’s the worry for me. People that deny the risk of this disease and engage in behavior that is known to put you and others at risk, it’s just absolutely reckless.”

Ozarks First has reached out to Tim Jacobsen, a member of the Bikefest committee. Jacobsen has yet to respond.

This is a developing story.

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