Michigan health officials tracking COVID-19 outbreak linked to Muskegon Bike Time event

Michigan health officials are tracking an outbreak of COVID-19 that's been traced to a biker event on the west side of the state.

At least 16 people who contracted coronavirus had attended the Muskegon Bike Time event that was held July 15-18.

A release from health officials issued Monday warned that anyone that attended the event may have been exposed to the virus.

"We continue to see outbreaks of COVID-19 in Michigan, including outbreaks involving the more transmissible Delta variant," said. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. 

The four-day celebration attracts tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts every year, with some years eclipsing 100,000 visitors. It's also considered an economic boon for west Michigan since bikers from across the country converge on the region.

In addition to a bike show, there's also live music, contests, and camping.

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But as many have already learned, where large crowds go, the potential for infection will follow. 

MDHHS is already tracking at least 66 COVID-19 infections from the Faster Horses country music festival, where tens of thousands congregated at the Michigan International Speedway in July. The bike event's outbreak adds to the state's case load, as well as the worries of experts that see every infection as a chance for a new variant to mutate.

"Attendees at Bike Time may have been exposed and are urged to get tested based on CDC’s latest guidelines," Khaldun said. "Our best protection against the virus is the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. I urge all eligible Michiganders to get vaccinated as soon as possible."

Attendees that were at the event are encouraged to get tested. Find a location at Michigan.gov/coronavirustest.

This wouldn't be the first bike event to cause an outbreak of COVID-19. A study of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Minnesota in August of 2020 reported 19% of COVID-19 cases nationwide could be traced back to it. 

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Michigan's transmission rate is low relative to states in the south. But the positive test rate is also beginning to climb from 1.8% on July 7 to 4.1% on July 27.

The state's honeymoon of a maskless and business restriction-less summer may be coming to a close as health experts worry a fourth surge could be charging toward the state, buoyed by the rise of the Delta variant. A study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows that even those who are vaccinated against the virus can still spread the variant.