Bridge Day gets the go ahead, won’t be canceled despite pandemic

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FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WVNS) — The commission for West Virginia’s annual Bridge Day event met on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 to vote on whether the event will take place this year.

Organizers voted to move forward with the event that is set for October 16, 2021. The Taste of Bridge Day, which historically takes place the night before, was canceled this week due to a rise in COVID cases in the region.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, thrill seekers will still converge on the New River Gorge Bridge next month for base jumping, repelling and more. Masks will be required for everyone in attendance.

During the meeting, Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley made a motion for Bridge Day to be canceled. He said there was no way to enforce mask wearing at Bridge Day since there is no state mandate. He said he was also concerned about the small size of the Sheriff’s Department. Fridley said all deputies will be on duty for Bridge Day, so if they get sick, it will have an impact on law enforcement in Fayette County.

“If my deputies catch this, I want to know how in the world I’m supposed to get back to my citizens safe and secure in Fayette County,” said Fridley.

A healthcare worker joined the meeting via Zoom and said the hospitals in Fayette County are stretched too thin, due to lack of staff and a rise in COVID cases, to handle an event like Bridge Day. The healthcare worker continued by saying bringing thousands of people to their small town is a risk. “COVID is still out of control. People are still dying,” she said.

The meeting concluded with a vote by the commission, which resulted in a 4-2 vote in favor of having Bridge Day in 2021. The commission will now meet weekly to address concerns and be sure safety precautions are taken. Organizers said they’re also planning on reaching out to the state to request aid to provide additional healthcare resources during Bridge Day.

The Administrator for the Fayette County Health Department says she was disappointed with the result of the vote. She says hospitals are over capacity in Fayette County right now as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the county. As of Wednesday, September 15, 2021, Fayette County saw the highest seven-day case total since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The thought that they might need a hospital bed or have an injury or an illness and need healthcare and we might not be able to offer it to them, that’s disturbing to me,” said Teri Harlan.

During his briefing on Wednesday morning, Governor Jim Justice encouraged the event to move forward, as it would boost the economy.

The Commission plans to reach out to the state for aide regarding healthcare needs as the event gets closer. Masks will be required for Bridge Day and the Chair for the event says anyone attending should take public health seriously.

“If you are coming to an event that you know is going to be crowded and you feel like you have any symptoms at all related to COVID, please get tested and be sure that you are not going to be a spreader at the event,” said Becky Sullivan.  

Bridge Day is known as West Virginia’s largest one day festival, with 100,000 people expected to attend each year.

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