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Bike Week still draws big crowds even with COVID restrictions

From bars accessorized with jugs of hand sanitizer to rows of barricades along stretches of Main Street, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in planning the 80th annual edition of Bike Week is evident along its bustling epicenter in Daytona Beach.

Bike Week visitors pack the sidewalks along Main Street on Thursday as the annual 10-day event heads toward its closing weekend in Daytona Beach. Despite measures taken by the City of Daytona Beach and event organizers to encourage social distancing and face masks, few visitors have been observed following COVID-19 health guidelines.

At the same time, as the annual influx rumbles into its closing weekend, it’s also apparent that efforts to promote social distancing, the use of face masks and other guidelines haven’t resonated with many Bike Week visitors, who cluster on sidewalks and in bars where nary a mask is seen. 

“I ain’t been worried about it,” said Dan Munoz, 52, who traveled with a friend from his home near Chattanooga, Tennessee, to attend Bike Week’s opening weekend.

“I ain’t worn a mask one bit and I’ve never gotten sick,” said Munoz, opening a cold beer at the Boot Hill Saloon on Main Street. “I don’t know too many people who have gotten sick in my neighborhood.”

Although city officials and event organizers offered an encouraging assessment of efforts to promote COVID guidelines, infectious disease experts this week were concerned about the event’s potential to spread the virus.

A Bike Week visitor sports a face mask on Thursday among the crowd on Main Street in Daytona Beach. Most visitors, however, aren't wearing masks or practicing social distancing, despite efforts by the city and event organizers to encourage such behavior. "We’ve done what we can do,” said Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry. “As far as the city is concerned, I’m happy with way we’ve responded and the way the merchants have partnered with us to create as safe an environment as possible.”

The epidemiologists urged visitors to follow recommendations related to social distancing, face masks and hand-washing, but acknowledged that such guidelines don’t mesh with the event’s free-wheeling spirit.

“It’s a challenge,” said Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, chief of General Internal Medicine at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. “We’re seeing it down here in Miami with spring break. There’s a lot of COVID fatigue going on.

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