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Public health officials not making recommendations to cancel events after outbreaks stem from West Michigan festivals

"We're not going to recommend to anyone that they not hold those festivals. What we're telling people is use your own best judgment," said one official.

MICHIGAN, USA — At least 10 cases of COVID-19 have been associated with the Ionia Free Fair. Still, the county's health officer, Ken Bowen, is not recommending canceling any future events. The Free Fair is by far the county's biggest event, he said, but there are still smaller celebrations planned across the county this summer. 

"We're not going to recommend to anyone that they not hold those festivals," said Bowen. "What we're telling people is use your own best judgment. A large crowd of people is probably not the best place to be right now. But, if you do decide to go, be careful. Bring a mask, if you feel uncomfortable, put your mask on. But most importantly, the thing that we're telling people is, if you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated."

This comes as COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise across the state. The Delta variant is now presumed to be the most prevalent strain, with a much higher transmission rate. 

In Muskegon County, Bike Time and Rebel Road events saw their own share of linked COVID-19 cases. At least 16 positive cases were connected to the events. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said anyone who attended may have been exposed to the virus. 

"That sounds like a large number," said Kathy Moore, Public Health Director of Muskegon County, "but you know, over a four-day period, there were probably 100,000-plus individuals. But they they did have that common denominator that they attended Bike Time."

Moore said at this time, they are also not recommending canceling or making major changes to future events. However, she did say public health is working with event organizers to post and do more to encourage anyone who is sick to not enter. 

"That's our biggest risk," said Moore. "We're finding that some people will say that they were symptomatic before they went, and it's like, that's exactly what we do not want you to do." 

Meanwhile, in Grand Haven, Coast Guard Festival is in full swing. Ottawa County's deputy health officer, Marcia Mansaray, said they are working closely with event organizers. Also, they have vaccinations available at the festival for those who want it. When state data comes out after the festival, if it links COVID-19 cases back to it, they will review that data. 

Ionia County has "substantial transmission risk," which means Bowen said they are following CDC guidelines and recommending mask wearing indoors. 

"But as of right now, we're not planning on issuing any widespread county orders," said Bowen. "You know, that can change. But that's not currently the plan."

Moore said they are also not looking to make any widespread restrictions or recommendations at this time, but are paying attention to the Delta variant and rising cases. 

"They should be alert and cognizant of the fact that the Delta variant has been identified in Muskegon County, cases overall have started to increase," said Moore. "We have to put the onus of responsibility on individuals to please take caution."

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