19% of all new US virus cases linked to South Dakota motorcycle rally

    New study says the annual gathering in Sturgis was a 'super-spreader' event.

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    More than 260,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. have been linked to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

    According to new research from San Diego State University’s Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies, these new cases have been diagnosed since Aug. 2, with the authors noting that the rally was “the perfect storm” for COVID-19 spread, Insider.com reports. 

    “If you look at the month between August 2 and September 2, based on our estimates, Sturgis is responsible for 19% of the cases in the United States,” said Andrew Friedson, one of the authors of the paper and an economics professor at the University of Colorado. 

    What’s more, the researchers estimated that it cost over $12 billion in public health costs. That figure does not include any costs associated with any deaths that might have been tied to the event.

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    Around 350,000 people from around the U.S. reportedly descended upon Sturgis for its annual motorcycle rally last month. Hundreds of them visited bars, restaurants and attended outdoor concerts. Many returned home to various states and nearby counties bringing with them new COVID-19 infections.

    In a report published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn, Germany, researchers used anonymized cell phone data to track rally-goers and their movements between Aug. 2 and Sept. 2. Local health records and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were also used to conclude that hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases could be linked to the rally.

    “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 economists wrote.

    “We find that the Sturgis Rally caused spread of COVID-19 cases both locally and in the home counties of those who traveled to the Sturgis Rally and returned home,” they added.

    The Sturgis rally is exactly the kind of event the CDC had previously warned could be a hub for a mass spreader of the potentially deadly COVID-19.

    “Thousands of people attended that event, and so it’s very likely that we will see more transmission,” said Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota’s director of infectious diseases, according to the Star Tribune.

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