Sunny skies on Friday the 13th could spell trouble for Port Dover

·2 min read

This week’s unseasonably warm temperatures have public health officials in Norfolk County worried that another sunny day on Friday will bring thousands of bikers to Port Dover.

“I never hope for bad weather, but I do hope that members of the motorcycle community heed our advice to stay at home,” said Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer of health, who reiterated his call that bikers skip the popular Friday the 13th rally in the name of health and safety.

Nesathurai said he is concerned that an influx of bikers enjoying double-digit temperatures could prompt a surge of COVID-19 and overwhelm the health unit’s ability to trace contacts.

“A large outbreak can also saturate hospital resources, which is also a concern of ours,” he said. “(Bikers) would be making an important civic contribution by staying home.”

Since Friday the 13th is an unscheduled event, it cannot be formally cancelled, though county council did decide not to issue vendor permits and has publicly asked bikers to steer clear. One-day parking restrictions for Port Dover are also on the table.

County spokesperson Matt Terry said the OPP and bylaw officers will be out in force on Friday to enforce physical distancing should thousands of bikers roar into the lakeside town.

Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp said while the county and local businesses would normally welcome the tourism boost a November Friday the 13th rally brings to Port Dover, tradition needs to take a back seat to safety during the pandemic.

This is particularly true, she noted, since a recent uptick of cases prompted the province to move Haldimand-Norfolk into the yellow “protect” category of Ontario’s new COVID-19 restriction levels.

“A large gathering this week could lead to even more restrictions imposed by the provincial government,” Chopp said.

“That’s why we’re asking people to please skip this event. We’ll be here ready to welcome you all back when it’s safe to do so.”

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator