Mercy Fort Smith officials recommend festivals and other gatherings wait until after COVID-19.
Mercy Fort Smith Medical Affairs Chief Dr. Paul Bean in an emailed response to the Times Record recommended large gatherings like Peacemaker Festival be avoided until after the pandemic has passed. Held July 24-25 at the Riverfront Amphitheater in Fort Smith, the music festival on one night checked in 2,537 people from both the region and from central Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas who were ordered to sit in grids meant to enforce social distancing and wear masks whenever they were outside their grid.
The festival declined to comment on their decision to go forward with the event and referred the Times Record to the Arkansas Department of Health, which allowed festival organizers to go forward with the event after they approved the plan. The Department of Health orders large outdoor venues to only hold events of more than 100 people at or below 66% capacity and with enforced face coverings and social distancing. Attendance at Peacemaker was capped at 46%, according to the festival.
Department of Health officials when asked about the festival referred the Times Record back to their directives for events at outdoor venues. They noted they must receive plans for the events 30-45 days before the date of the event so they may work with the organizers to finalize details.
COVID-19 symptoms may show two to 14 days after infection, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tests usually take a handful of days for results to come back, depending on the service a healthcare provider uses to process the tests and other possible factors.
Sebastian County on Friday had 81 new cases and more than 400 active cases. The county held the third-highest single-day total for new cases on Friday, according to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Bean in his responses didn’t say if he believed a spike in cases would come from the festival or estimate when one would occur. But he did say "any large gathering" like Peacemaker "puts individuals at risk for contracting the virus."
"It is certainly possible that we could see cases as a result of any large gathering of people," Bean said.
"We may see people who have the infection without symptoms who can still infect others," he said.
Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control agents cited the festival for "failure to maintain health, safety and sanitary standards, ABC rule 1.79(7)." Department of Finance spokesperson Scott Hardin on Monday said the penalty will likely result in a fine.
A woman on July 25 posted on her Facebook she had tested positive for COVID-19 and was accused of attending the festival the day before after getting tested two days earlier. The festival was unable to confirm if she had purchased a ticket in their sales records.