The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, which next month was expected to bring tens of thousands of people to downtown Springfield, has been called off for 2021.
Event organizers cited rising cases of COVID-19 as the delta variant spreads through the community. The festival had been scheduled Aug. 13-14.
“Obviously, we are very disappointed. After having to cancel the 2020 festival, we were so looking forward to 2021,” said Cora Scott, director of public information and civic engagement for the city of Springfield and festival steering committee member, in the release. “With our region’s low vaccination rate against COVID-19, the resulting surge of infections are overwhelming our hospitals and making our community sick.
"We feel it is just not safe to bring tens of thousands of people from all over the world to this community for any reason.”
Event officials instead will host vaccination opportunities in the festival space Aug. 13-14. The plan is to bring back the event in 2022.
Scott said in the release more than 75,000 people had been expected to attend the Route 66 Festival this year. The city's largest annual event also was called off in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pace of the spread of coronavirus has picked back up again locally in recent weeks.
As of July 12, Greene County’s seven-day average for cases was 165, with 226 hospitalized and 39.7% of the eligible population fully vaccinated, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard.
In response to case increases, Mercy Springfield Communities earlier this month announced it would require all employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Mercy Springfield Communities Chief Administrative Officer Erik Frederick on July 11 tweeted the health care system opened a sixth COVID-19 unit in Springfield. The hospital needed only five units last year, he said.
At CoxHealth, the COVID-19 unit at the health care system’s south Springfield hospital has been used off and on since April, said spokesperson Kaitlyn McConnell.
“With the rising cases we currently have – 127 as of this morning – it has been invaluable,” she said via email.
The Cox South COVID-19 unit was built last year on the fifth floor of the hospital’s tower. Led by J.E. Dunn Construction Co., development of the 51-bed unit was completed in early April after just two weeks, according to past reporting. Prime Inc. issued a $700,000 donation for the project, followed by a $200,000 award from The Sunderland Foundation.
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