By Mary Hennigan
Washington Regional Medical Center, saying the region is “in the darkest hour of this public health emergency,” has asked the City of Fayetteville to postpone the annual Bikes, Blues and BBQ because of the local hospitals are at capacity due to COVID-19.
David Ratcliff, the Fayetteville-based hospital’s chief medical officer, wrote Wednesday that “our region’s hospitals have no way to accommodate that event, let alone the additional COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations that are likely to accompany an event where 300,000 congregate in close proximity.”
The event is scheduled for September 22 to 25, with its main stage located near the University of Arkansas’s Baum-Walker stadium. University officials have begun discussing the situation to find potential options, John Thomas, manager of university communications said.
“We are concerned about ensuring that local medical resources can be focused on the ongoing health and safety needs, and regularly planned activities of our local community,” Thomas wrote in an email. The Fayetteville City Board of Health recommended the organizers of the motorcycle rally cancel or postpone the event, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The hospital’s letter comes at a time of spiking COVID-19 cases across the state, with a concentration in Washington County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Since August 2, the county has reported more than 4,000 new infections and now has the second-highest number of active cases with 2,101, only after Pulaski County at 2,391 active cases.
“To hold such an event at a moment when our region’s healthcare systems are overwhelmed responding to the latest surge in hospitalizations resulting from the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is to invite disaster,” Ratcliff wrote.
In addition, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that ICU beds for COVID-19 patients are full across the state, emphasizing the strain placed on hospitals and the need for vaccinations.