(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph is about to welcome a crowd of thousands this upcoming weekend in its first attempt to hold large-scale events since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the health department said now is not the time.
Longtime traditions cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic are set to make a comeback this Saturday. Both the annual Apple Blossom parade and the country's first military airshow, the Sound of Speed airshow at Rosecrans Memorial Airport are slated for the same weekend and known to draw massive crowds.
Health officials continue to tout wearing masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated, but when asked what are best practices heading into large-scale events, the Health Director of the St. Joseph Health Department said simply put: don't go.
“The ultimate best thing to do is avoid them, but I know that it’s easier said than done,” said Debra Bradley, St. Joseph Health Director.
The health department reported a jump of 45 COVID cases in just two days, the highest increase in cases in over a month.
“We are starting to see an increase in cases and it is concerning because it's been about a month since our restrictions have been lifted and that people started going out and about you know with the nice weather people are getting together and again, I totally get it, but we want to remind people the pandemic is still here," said Bradley.
Thursday, the city announced masks will be required at the airshow as an Executive Order signed on January 20, 2021 ordering masks to be worn on all federal property until directed otherwise.
However, with Buchanan County only sitting at a vaccination rate of only 15%, health officials said they caution residents against large crowds.
Bradley said, “We don’t want to have to put restrictions back in place if we don’t have to.”
But for those who have been looking forward to the return of normalcy like Ken Rosenauer, President of the Apple Blossom parade, he said these crowd favorite festivities are the moral boost they need.
“It’s difficult to really explain how meaningful it is to get back to a tradition,” said Rosenauer,“It would have been easy like so many things to say, ‘we aren’t going to do the parade,’ but we couldn’t do that.”
Last year, the annual Apple Blossom parade was cancelled for the first time in 50 years. The pageant and bbq were cancelled this year, but the parade will go on.
Rosenauer said because it's the first time back since the COVID shutdown, the parade will be shorter in length because there will be less floats and those walking in the event. For more information on the parade, click here.
The Sound of Speed Airshow is requiring guests download free tickets to the event as a way to crowd control. To download a ticket, click here. Again, face coverings will also be required to attend.
The St. Joseph Health Department will be holding a vaccination clinic on Tuesday, May 4th. To sign up for an appointment, click here.