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Covid Cases Spike After Sturgis Motorcycle Rally—Again

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 24, 2021


A section of rural South Dakota that hosted hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts earlier this month for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally now has one of the sharpest rises in Covid cases anywhere in the U.S.—a major sign that this year’s motorcycle rally served as a repeat of 2020’s superspreader event.

Key Facts

Meade County, where the city of Sturgis is located, is adding an average of 29 new Covid cases a day and neighboring Lawrence County 17 a day, according to a New York Times tracker, after having days before the rally with hardly any new Covid cases at all.

While the numbers are small compared to urban areas, they represent a considerable spike for the two counties, which each have populations of under 30,000.

Meade County has the second-sharpest rise in Covid cases of any county in the U.S. compared to two weeks ago, according to the Times, with a 1,233% increase in cases.

Lawrence County is third in the U.S., with a 1,120% increase in cases, with the two counties only trailing tiny Richland County in eastern Montana for the recent sharpest rise in cases.

Hospitalizations have also surged more than 200% in the two counties, though neither have recorded new Covid-19 deaths, which tend to lag behind increases in cases and hospitalizations.

The testing positivity rate during the week of August 13 to August 19 was extraordinarily high in Meade County, at 33.3%, according to the South Dakota Department of Health, while Lawrence County’s rate was also above 25%.

Big Number

525,768. That’s how many vehicles passed through Sturgis during the ten-day motorcycle rally this year, which is the highest figure for the rally since 2015, when it had its highest attendance in history. Sturgis has a permanent population of around 7,000 people.

Key Background

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attracted massive crowds from August 6 to August 15 that packed the small town, which had no capacity restrictions, no mask mandates and a population vaccinated at a far lower rate than the U.S. as a whole. Only 38% of Meade County is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while the overall U.S. rate is 51.5%. The low rate of vaccinations and lack of precautionary measures troubled health officials, with Dr. Anthony Fauci saying he was “very concerned” that Sturgis would be a superspreader event, similar to what was seen last year, and perhaps even worse due to the highly contagious delta variant and the massive rate of attendance. The CDC definitively linked 649 Covid cases to the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, but most believe the actual number is much higher. One study released weeks after the event suggested the 2020 rally might have led to 250,000 cases.

Further Reading

Biggest Sturgis Motorcycle Rally In Years Wrapping Up—See Photos Of The Massive Crowds (Forbes)

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Kicks Off Amid Delta Covid Surge (Forbes)

Coronavirus Hospitalizations Have More Than Tripled In South Dakota After Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (Forbes)

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: Sheriff Reports Biggest Crowds In Years As Fauci ‘Very Concerned’ Event Will Cause New Surge (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus


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