Sturgis Motorcycle Rally study links event to 266k new COVID-19 cases

The 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that took place in South Dakota last month has been linked to more than a quarter-million new COVID-19 cases and more than $12 billion in public health care costs, according to a new study. The event lasted 10 days and attracted nearly half a million people over that duration, many of whom chose not to wear masks or engage in social distancing practices.

The motorcycle rally was heavily criticized as reckless amid the coronavirus pandemic, which is spread through contact with contaminated surfaces and coming in close proximity with someone who is infected with the disease. Despite the risks of large gatherings, the annual rally proceeded this year and was attended by around 460,000 people, including many who were from out of state.

A new study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics has linked this event to around 266,000 new cases of COVID-19, doing so using cell phone data. A least one COVID-related death has been linked to the event, according to the study, which estimates that overall, the cases linked to the motorcycle rally have a massive $12 billion public health bill attached to them.

The study, which South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem called 'fiction,' refers to the motorcycle rally as a 'superspreading' event, one that pointlessly resulted in a mass of infections in multiple states. Many aspects of the event made it particularly risky, the study notes, including its long duration and the close proximity in which the participants congregated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these types of gatherings are the riskiest when it comes to contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has caused an estimated 189,000 deaths in the United States in the last six or so months.