Over half a million plus bikers are headed to South Dakota’s Black Hills this weekend for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, AGAIN raising concerns that it will be a superspreader event.
Last year the rally drew widespread criticism as maskless attendees gathered en masse. This year, vaccines have given us more gatherings possible, but any health precautions at Sturgis are optional. There are no testing or vaccine requirements to attend.
Average Sturgis rally attendance each year is right around half a million for the past two decades. Despite the social limitations of the coronavirus pandemic, last year’s rally brought in roughly 460,000 attendees. 700,000 people are expected to attend this year’s rally – the 81st iteration of the event.
According to USA Today,
Some recent large-scale events, including the music festival Lollapalooza, have required attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test and to wear a mask. Because the nation is currently battling growing cases as the highly transmissible delta variant circulates, even those precautions have been called insufficient.
Some experts say it’s a recipe for a super-spreader event. Last year’s was traced to 649 virus cases across the country, but some estimates are far higher. In Minnesota, 86 COVID-19 cases were detected in the state, resulting in four hospitalizations and one death, and linked to the rally, according to a reportpublished by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November 2020.
According to The New York Times,
Sturgis officials said the rally offers attendees access to coronavirus tests, face masks and hand sanitizer stations, in addition to doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, And the city has also allowed rallygoers to drink on public property, with the hope of preventing indoor crowding.
Carol Fellner, a local who worried that this year’s event said,
“The rally is a behemoth, and you cannot stop it. I feel absolutely powerless.”
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem gave the rally her blessing and will appear there in a charity ride.
According to the state Department of Tourism, the event brings in over $800 million in sales.
So, of course the state’s health department said the rally can be conducted safely. Daniel Bucheli, director of communications at the South Dakota Department of Health said,
“Anytime you have a large group of people come together there are risks, but with the proper precautions and mitigation practices, it can be done safely.”
We’ve come a long way since this time last year in what we know about COVID-19, with widely available testing and COVID-19 vaccines available to the public. We encourage all those attending to continue observing mitigation risk strategies and make the choice to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.”
The highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for more than 93% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S..
According to the CDC, only about 46% of adults in the county that hosts Sturgis are fully vaccinated, compared with 60.6% nationwide.
The rally continues despite the credible study, The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19, showed that last year’s rally infected over 250,000 people.
The Sturgis super spreader rally runs through Aug. 15 and will feature musical performances from Kid Rock, and ZZ Top despite the fact that the group just lost founding member Dusty Hill recently.
We estimate that over 250,000 of the reported cases between August 2 and September 2 are due to the Sturgis Rally. Roughly 19 percent of the national cases during this timeframe. https://t.co/6tCCV6aXYf— Andrew Friedson (@FriedsonAndrew) September 6, 2020
(Photo, sceengrab; via USA Today)