Last month, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally pushed through despite warning from several medical experts and concerned citizens. According to the South Dakota Department of Transportation, the total rally attendees reached 462,182 for this year, down 7.5% vs 2019.
Though not well known here in the Philippines, the Sturgis Rally has been going on for 82 years. It was started in 1938 by the motorcycle group, Jackpine Gypsies. It is a 10-day motorcycle festival packed with shows, races, bike exhibitions, and concerts.
Unfortunately, this year’s Sturgis was celebrated during an ongoing coronavirus outbreak which, according to health experts, became a “COVID super spreader”.
In a report published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, “following the Sturgis event, counties that contributed the highest inflows of rally attendees experienced a 7.0 to 12.5 percent increase in COVID-19 cases,” and that the following medical bills related to this spread could cause the US government $12.2 billion.
“We conclude that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally generated public health costs of approximately US$12.2 billion,” the report said.
The study also added that, “The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the “worst-case scenarios” for superspreading occurred simultaneously. These scenarios are: a prolonged; with individuals packed closely together; involved a large out-of-town population (visitors outnumbering the local population); and had low compliance with recommended infection countermeasures such as the use of masks. The only large factor working to prevent the spread of infection was the outdoor venue and low population density in the state of South Dakota.”
It seems the experts' worst fears came true. Despite many attempts even from outside groups to prevent the event from continuing, stubborn event attendees have caused more harm than good.