460,000 people ignored public health warnings and attend the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, largely without masks or social distancing.
The pings of their cellphones enabled a team of economists to trace them back to their home counties and statistically link the rally to at least 250,000 COVID-19 infections.
The results are reported in a new study, The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19 from the Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies at San Diego State University.
According to The Daily Beast,
The data on Sturgis showed that the number of pings by people from outside the community increased by 92.5 percent compared to a two-week period prior to the rally. The crowd there happened to peak on Aug. 8, the night Smash Mouth played and lead singer Steve Harwell said
“Now we’re all here together tonight. And we’re being human once again.
Fuck that COVID shit.”
The study’s subsequent data indicates that the rally increased COVID-19 infection in Meade County by 6.3 to 6.9 cases per 1,000 of the population. Infections in South Dakota were calculated to have risen by up to 3.9 cases per 1,000 as a result of the rally.
The study noted,
“This represents an increase of over 35 percent relative to the 9.7 cases per 1,000 population in South Dakota on July 31, 2020.”
The study further found that the rally caused COVID-19 infections to rise by 10.7 percent in counties with the highest number of Sturgis attendees. The counties with few attendees were also factored in. The final tally was astonishing, but deemed plausible by the experts:
266,796 coronavirus infections.
“Or 19 percent of 1.4 million new cases.”
On Sept 2 it was reported,
A Minnesota biker who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally died of covid-19 — the first fatality from the virus traced to the 10-day event that drew more than 400,000 to South Dakota.
The man was in his 60s, had underlying conditions and was hospitalized in intensive care after returning from the rally, said Kris Ehresmann, infectious-disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. The case is among at least 260 cases in 11 states tied directly to the event, according to a survey of health departments by The Washington Post.
However accurate the number of COVID-19 infections caused by the rally may or may not be, the team’s ultimate goal was,
“Getting individuals to internalize the ultimate cost they’re imposing on others.”
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, YouTube; via The Daily Beast)