Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Linked to 250K COVID-19 Cases


In early August, nearly a half-million Americans from all around the country gathered at the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

As Consequence of Sound reports, according to a new study by health economists Dhaval Dave, Andrew Friedson, Drew McNichols, and Joe Sabia, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally contributed to 263,708 new cases of COVID-19 and cost $12 billion in new medical care.

The discussion paper series issuance is called "The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19".

The data also showed a rise in foot traffic at restaurants and bars, retail establishments, entertainment venues, hotels and campgrounds. Prolonged interactions between individuals at high frequencies, along with "minimal mask-wearing and social distancing by attendees", raised concerns that Sturgis would lead to increased transmission of coronavirus, according to a new study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics.

The economic study (via Forbes) analyzed new COVID-19 case reports and anonymous data to determine what, if any economic impact may have resulted from proliferation of the pandemic by attendees of the annual motorcycle rally.

U.S. counties that contributed the highest numbers of attendees experienced a rise of 7 to 12.5% in the number of cases compared to those that did not contribute inflows. I think we have 11 other cases that have tracked, you know, people that have traveled to the Sturgis motorcycle bike rally, but it's less than 300 cases.

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According to the Argus Leader, the South Dakota Department of Health has officially reported 124 cases among South Dakota residents who attended the motorcycle rally as of Tuesday.

In the USA, 1.4 million new coronavirus cases were reported between August 2 and September 2.

Also contributing to the spike in USA cases is the re-opening of schools and colleges in many areas and the large gatherings taking place despite the warnings of health experts, ranging from protests against racial injustice to rallies in support of President Donald Trump. Because of this, the team of researchers have calculated that each of the 462,182 attendees could have been paid more than $26,000 each not to attend the event! Realistically, it's impossible to efficiently track all the cases linked to the rally.

But don't tell that to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who apparently has chosen to serve out her term with her head in the sand.

Costs to treat the patients affected by the outbreak will exceed over $12.2 billion. "Predictably, some in the media breathlessly report on this non-peer reviewed model, built on incredibly faulty assumptions that do not reflect the actual facts and data". While the Post wrote that epidemiologists believe the 260 figure is a "significant undercount", due to limited contact tracing in various states and the resistance of rallygoers to seek testing, any true figure finding a higher number would likely remain a fraction of the astronomical number cited by the IZA researchers. South Dakota, where the seven-day averages for new cases was 107 in mid-August as the rally was happening, saw new cases spike to an average of 347 a week as of September 2nd. "So if we want a good-faith estimate using, at the moment, the accepted statistical techniques ... this is the best number we're going to get in my opinion". In counties with the largest relative inflow to the event, the per 1,000 case rate increased by 10.7 percent after 24 days following the onset of Sturgis Pre-Rally Events.