Some 125,000 bikers from across the nation descended on Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks for a weekend rally, fueling fears that the gathering could spread the coronavirus far and wide.
Most attendees of the 14th annual Bikefest Lake of the Ozarks went maskless and flouted social-distancing precautions during the event, photos and videos show.
“It’s what we get dealt with in life,” attendee Bubby Fischer told local news outlet KY3, referring to the coronavirus. “If you get dealt with it, it’s what happens.”
Other participants similarly shrugged off the deadly contagion, responsible for nearly 200,000 American deaths as of Monday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“If I was worried about getting sick I would have stayed home,” one rider told MSNBC, declining to give their name. “But I wanted to have some fun.”
Dan Ousley, a 51-year-old local and occasional Bikefest participant, told The Daily Beast that he was heartened to see the turnout.
“It’s great to see,” said Ousley. “Honestly, I think that the COVID-19 thing is a little overblown, to be honest. We made national news for having large crowds, but we just want to live our life.”
But public-health experts had a very different takeaway.
“People are going to congregate from all over the country, and it will likely spur a chain of transmissions that has impacts in various different states,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins specializing in infectious diseases, told The Daily Beast.
“It will be a major task for public health officials because it is very difficult to track this mobile population.”
Around 125,000 people attended BikeFest at Lake Of The Ozarks in Missouri.TODAY via Youtube.
Similar problems were posed by the even larger Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held in South Dakota over 10 days in August.
At least one attendee died of the coronavirus, and researchers labeled Sturgis a “superspreading event,” an assessment blasted as “completely untrue” by Gov. Kristi Noem.
“The lessons from Sturgis are that this chain of transmission will happen in any mass gatherings and it will have mass consequences,” Adalja told The Daily Beast. “At the very least, anyone that attends a mass gathering should get tested a couple of days after the event.”
Lake of the Ozarks was previously in the spotlight over the Memorial Day weekend when massive, maskless crowds congregated for pool parties with the pandemic still raging.
Ahead of the weekend biker rally, Lake Ozark Mayor Gerry Murawski admitted to The Kansas City Star that he had some concerns.
“But this is our last event of the year and I keep thinking, ‘Let’s just get through this,’ and then we can quite frankly go to sleep for a few months,” Murawski told the paper. “And hopefully by next year it’s gone. Probably not, though.”