FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Washington Regional Medical Center sent a letter to the city of Fayetteville officials on Wednesday requesting that the city postpone the annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ motorcycle rally in light of a surge in hospitalizations due to the Delta variant.
“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 is to invite further disaster,” wrote Washington Regional’s chief medical officer, Dr. David G. Ratliff, in a letter, addressed to Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and city health officer Dr. Marti Sharkey.
Ratliff, writing on behalf of Washington Regional, noted that the hospital has historically ramped up its Emergency Department and Trauma staff to cover Bikes, Blues & BBQ-related cases.
“We simply don’t have the luxury of doing that this year,” Ratliff wrote. “All our available staff are already working way beyond normal capacities to deal with the pandemic surge.”
In South Dakota, coronavirus cases quintupled after the Sturgis motorcycle rally, prompting concerns Northwest Arkansas could experience a similar surge after BBB.
Click the image to read the letter in its entirety below:
“Understand that we are the region’s only Level 2 trauma center and the only Comprehensive Stroke Center outside of Little Rock,” Ratliff said. “There will be no way to provide the level of care required by our community if the City pushes forward with this event.”
KNWA/FOX24 reached out to Washington Regional to comment on the letter. It responded with this statement:
Our goal is to alert our community that Bikes, Blues & BBQ historically results in a meaningful increase in traumas presenting to our emergency room. Washington Regional does not experience an increase in traumas as a result of athletic events, concerts or other passive attendance venues.
While in normal times Washington Regional has the ability to add additional staff and resources to meet the increased trauma demand that accompanies Bikes, Blues & BBQ, such is not the case at present. There is no ICU or Emergency Department capacity at any Northwest Arkansas hospital at present due to the surge in COVID-19 admissions.
We are concerned that any additional pressure placed on our regional health care system will result in individuals being unable to access care. For the safety of our community and to lessen the already unmanageable burden on our health care professionals, our leaders need to exercise good judgment and postpone Bikes, Blues & BBQ to another date once the current COVID-19 surge is under control.
We intend to make our concerns known to all parties who may be able to demonstrate good judgment on this issue.Washington Regional
Organizers announced earlier this month that the event would set up shop at Baum Walker Stadium this year. It is unclear if the city of Fayetteville has the authority to prevent it from happening.
The Fayetteville City Board of Health is set to discuss the letter at a meeting on Wednesday, August 25.