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CDC: 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally resulted in ‘widespread’ transmission of COVID-19

2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (file photo)
2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (file photo)(KOTA)
Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 1:21 PM CDT
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STURGIS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A new study says the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally resulted in “widespread transmission” of the coronavirus across the United States, and directly linked the event to hundreds of cases across dozens of states.

The study, published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, linked the rally to 649 cases in 29 states - including one death.

Over 400,000 people attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last August despite concerns that it would serve as a superspreader event. The report noted South Dakota implemented few COVID-19 restrictions on businesses during the pandemic, and that no mask mandates were in effect during the rally.

To perform the study, CDC researchers requested lab and coronavirus tracking data related to the rally from all 50 states, as well as health departments from Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Thirty-nine health departments responded to the request.

The 649 cases tied to the rally resulted in 17 hospitalizations and one death, according to the study. Fifty-six percent of these cases were reported in South Dakota and five bordering states - Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

“While the number of cases identified is sizable - 140 cases per 100,000 attendees - it is likely that the true national impact of the Sturgis event is underestimated,” the report said. Researchers cited several reasons for this, including the variability of health departments’ ability to identify and interview all COVID-19 cases, and reluctance among some who tested positive to report attending the Sturgis rally.

The study concluded that the rally highlights the risk of COVID-19 transmission associated with mass gatherings. Researchers say modeling suggests postponing voluntary mass events “may be the most viable option” to maintain epidemic control. If postponement is not an option, the study suggested informing those who attend about mitigation strategies, including wearing masks and physical distancing.

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