The numbers coming in for both the amount of COVID-19 cases and the ultimate public cost from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota are staggering. In fact, the numbers are so huge they are almost unbelievable. That, of course, will fuel the deniers who say it is nothing worse than the flu. Except that it is far more contagious and deadly. In short, the Sturgis motorcycle rally was a COVID-19 super spreader like no other.
Sturgis is accountable for 250,000 COVID-19 cases at a cost of $12 billion
A non-profit scientific study out of Germany from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics through the University of Bonn says Sturgis was a worst-case scenario. Actually, the August event was worse than worse. The study says Sturgis was a situation “where many of the worst-case scenarios for super spreading occurred simultaneously.” It is accountable for 250,000 COVID-19 cases at a public cost of $12 billion according to the study.
What made it so bad was that “the event was prolonged, included individuals packed closely together, involved a large out-of-town population (a population that was orders of magnitude larger than the local population), and had low compliance with recommended infection countermeasures such as the use of masks. The only large factors working to prevent the spread of infection was the outdoor venue, and low population density in the state of South Dakota.”
The lack of precautions was mind-numbingly stupid
It has been estimated that 460,000 attended Sturgis this year. The lack of precautions was mind-numbingly stupid. Mitigation efforts were largely left to the “personal responsibility” of attendees (Knowles and Lati 2020), and post-opening day media reports suggested social distancing and mask-wearing were quite rare (Walker 2020; Porterfield 2020; Orecchio-Egresitz 2020; Groves 2020).
Because of the sheer number of cases popping up the study says that a fifth of the cases in the US is a result of Sturgis. A fifth! It represents a 35% increase in South Dakota alone. Once attendees returned home it significantly raised the rates of COVID-19 in every county participants lived in.
Liquor store sales in Sturgis were up 27% from the prior year
Until Sturgis, South Dakota had some of the lowest positivity rates. This is due largely to its sparse population and the fact it is spread out. But after Sturgis? South Dakota had the highest positivity rate in the US at almost 21%. So it jumped from one of the lowest to absolutely the highest.
It was expected that there would be a fair amount of deniers attending just by the nature of the event. But it seems to have been super-skeptics as the report indicates. “Liquor store sales in Sturgis were up 27% from the prior year, which could be representative of a less risk-averse population of attendees given that attendance was down roughly 7.5 percent from the prior year (Bonnet 2020).” Get it?
19% of the 1.4 million new COVID-19 cases in the US in August can be traced to Sturgis
Researchers at San Diego State University’s Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies say that 19% of the 1.4 million new COVID-19 cases in the US in the month of August can be traced to the Sturgis rally.
It should be noted that the governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem has stated she is a skeptic of most COVID-19 mitigation measures like facemasks. Noem has an online B.A. degree in political science from South Dakota State University. She never issued a shelter-in-place order for South Dakota. “I trusted my people, they trusted me to make decisions that were best for us, and they’ve just done an absolute fantastic job,” Noem said in April. “That’s why my plan is a back-to-normal plan.”
Hypothetically, the $12.2 billion it will cost to treat these cases means that every rally attendee could have been given over $26,000 not to attend the event.