Volusia County authorities urge Biketoberfest visitors to wear masks, social distance

Biketoberfest began Thursday

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Officials in Volusia County are expected to hold a news conference Thursday to discuss Biketoberfest and COVID-19 updates.

Cases of coronavirus continue to climb throughout the state as well as in Volusia County. As of Thursday morning, the Florida Department reported 90 new cases of COVID-19 in Volusia County.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood warned attendees to be safe during the event. Chitwood, who contracted the virus himself, said he wouldn’t wish the infection on anyone and hopes that everyone will do their part to stay healthy and safe.

[TRENDING: 1 dead in Melbourne triple shooting | Type O blood may mean lower COVID-19 risk | Biketoberfest begins in Daytona Beach]

Jim Judge, director of Volusia County Emergency Management reminded everyone to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds during the event.

Last month, the city of Daytona Beach voted to not allow event permits for Biketoberfest out of concerns it could cause COVID-19 to spread.

However, Volusia County voted to allow permits for areas not governed by another local city within the county. Ormond Beach also voted to allow event permits if the business submitted a safety plan regarding COVID-19.

Chitwood said that there will be extra deputies patrolling the area. Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri also said he will be on Main Street on Friday to monitor the crowds.

The event looks different this year but business owners and visitors are making the most of it.

Tony Robinson, of Knoxville, Tennessee, said he’s been visiting Destination Daytona for years.

“You notice when you walk in through the venues, there are signs everywhere talking about social distancing, masking up and things like that," Robinson said, adding “I think they’ve done a very good job handling this.”

Dean Pepe, general counsel for Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona in Ormond Beach, said they’ve hired “safety girls” who hand out hand sanitizer and face masks. Signs are posted everywhere reminding people to socially distance and wear a face mask.

“It’s difficult to force people to do something,” Pepe said. “It’s our messaging, it’s by example of our associates doing it trying to keep our associates safe.”

Pepe said the business is thankful the city of Ormond Beach granted them permits to allow vendors on the 150-acre property.

“This is a huge boost for us," Pepe said. "This is a significant portion of our revenue each year are these bike events.”

Meanwhile bikers on Main Street in Daytona Beach said they missed the fanfare of year past.

“Nothing’s open down here," Albert Sousa, of Massachusetts said. "It’s not what it’s supposed to be.”

Steve Primavera, a Daytona Beach resident, blamed city officials for halting the fun associated with Biketoberfest.

“It’s because of the mayor. He stopped all this stuff. He stopped everybody from having fun," Primavera said. “Go to Ormond. Everbody is in Ormond.”

Holly Smith, with the Volusia County Health Department, said it’s up to people to be personally responsible so this doesn’t become an event leading to a lot of new virus cases.

“You can expect to see cases increase," Smith said. "To what extent, I can’t comment on that now and we’ll see what comes up in the next couple of weeks in the data.”

It takes about two weeks for Florida Department of Health data to reflect new coronavirus cases.

[RELATED: Bikers descend on Daytona Beach for Biketoberfest | Biketoberfest to go on as planned in Volusia County]

About the Authors:

Loren Korn is a native Texan who joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2014. She was born and raised in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Journalism.