What is Sturgis Superspreader? How controversial motorcycle rally became epicenter for Covid-19 infections

The study suggests that although the 'spread of the virus from the event was large', presence of Sturgis attendees from various parts of the country contributed to its 'severity'


                            What is Sturgis Superspreader? How controversial motorcycle rally became epicenter for Covid-19 infections
(Getty Images)
ADVERTISEMENT

One of America's biggest annual events 'The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally' which was held in South Dakota on August 7 has been labeled a "Superspreader" by researchers, as studies have shown a significant surge in the Covid-19 cases after the event commenced. The 80th annual event saw over 460,000 motorcycle enthusiasts from across the country throng a small town in South Dakota, despite the growing concerns and warning from the residents.  

ADVERTISEMENT

What is Sturgis Superspreader?

Motorcyclists ride down Main Street a day before the start of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 6, 2020 in Sturgis, South Dakota. While the rally usually attracts around 500,000 people, officials estimate that more than 250,000 people may still show up to this year's festival despite the coronavirus pandemic. (Getty Images)

According to Joseph J Sabia, one of the authors of the study and professor of economics and the director of the Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies at San Diego State University told in a statement that "The Sturgis Rally was one of the largest in-person gatherings since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States" which has involved more than $12 billion in health care costs due to "widespread" of the deadly virus from the rally. The study has been titled "The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19,” published by IZA- Institute of Labor Economics, a German think tank. 

ADVERTISEMENT

However, the governor of South Dakota Kristo Noem, who was one of the biggest supporters of the event, has called the study "fiction" according to the Daily Mail. 

The 10-day event gathered a lot of attention and criticism for taking place in the presence of more than hundreds and thousands of attendees with no requirement of social distancing or mask mandate. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The epicenter of a wave of Covid-19 infections

The 10-day rally showed a large crowd of bikers roaming about freely without masks and interact with the local business without abiding by the social distancing protocol. The study suggests that although the "spread of the virus from the event was large", presence of Sturgis attendees from various parts of the country, who approached the pandemic very lightly have contributed to its "severity". 

ADVERTISEMENT

The researchers reportedly used cell phone data to track the number of people who came to Sturgis from different towns during the rally and linked it to the corresponding rises in the Covid-19 cases in the areas in which they traveled. The studies have determined that over "90 percent of the rally's  attendees traveled to Sturgis from out of state." It has further revealed that the majority of them came from the mIdwest and South states such as Texas and Arizona when they were on the brink of an outbreak. 

ADVERTISEMENT

According to the researchers, between August 2 and September 2, the number of Covid-19 cases in Meade county has increased "six to seven percent per 1,000 residents." South Dakota Department of Health has reported a total of 15,403 cases as of September 8 with 346 in Meade County alone. 

According to the health officials, at least one death is linked to the rally. Meanwhile, at least 260 cases in 11 states have been linked to the rally. The man who died was in his 60s and the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed "at least 49 people in the state who have tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the rally," reports Daily Mail. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Reportedly, multiple states have reported Covid-19 infections in those who attended the rally, which has now spread in "at least 11 states". The analysis by the research team using the phone data suggests that around 61 percent of all US counties have been visited by a rallygoer. South Dakota has reported 105 infections directly linked to the rally.  

ADVERTISEMENT

The summation of the study says, "The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the 'worst-case scenarios' for super-spreading occurred simultaneously."