Law enforcement and emergency officials are bracing themselves this week for what they hope will not turn into the next surge in COVID-19 cases, as they anticipate potentially hundreds of thousands to attend the return of Riverfest and the Western & Southern/WEBN Fireworks on Sunday.
Some told WCPO Thursday they hope visitors will take extra precautions — and that they have taken some extra steps of their own, including another COVID vaccine shot.
Prim and Rucha Patel, of Austin, Texas, drove into town early this week for the Labor Day events. Aware of the risks associated with such crowds, they said they plan to be extra cautious.
"I wouldn't say I'm as afraid of catching (COVID-19) here, even though we're vaccinated and we've heard cases where people are still getting the new variant," Prim Patel said.
Rucha Patel nodded in agreement, saying, "I've heard that they're still doing the social distancing at bars and restaurants."
In addition to getting vaccinated, they said they plan to stay masked when in tight crowds this weekend — among the precautions doctors and emergency directors hope all Riverfest attendees take this weekend.
But some law enforcement and health officials are taking extra steps themselves, with some first responders in Northern Kentucky taking a third dose of their COVID vaccines in an attempt to avoid infection or quarantine.
RIVERFEST 2021: 9 things to know if you plan to go
Riverfest comes as coronavirus cases — particularly involving the more aggressive delta variant — have increased across the Tri-State in recent weeks.
"This could be compared to — and we hope it isn't — a super-spreader event," said Kenton County Emergency Management Director Steve Hensley.
Kentucky hospitals have so many COVID patients that Gov. Andy Beshear Thursday sent state National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel to offer support to medical staff.
On Wednesday, Northern Kentucky counties saw 161 new cases.
Hensley said Northern Kentucky police chiefs are concerned about losing irreplaceable staff to quarantine or infection, especially those tasked with crowd control during Sunday's events.
"As soon as it was very obvious to us that this event was going to proceed, we looked for the option, and as soon as we found it available to us, we went and received the third dose," Hensley said.
These efforts come as, across the river, Ohio's public health director shared statistics Thursday showing a similar spike in cases: The number of new cases per day in Ohio is ten times higher than they were for the Fourth of July holiday.
"This is trending in the wrong direction," said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. "Fortunately, you know, Labor Day is a holiday that falls when we can do an awful lot outside, (which) is always safer than inside when it comes to these respiratory viruses."