The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in early August was a COVID-19 “superspreading event” that led to an estimated $12.2 billion in public health costs, according to a new study by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics. The South Dakota rally has drawn widespread criticism for spreading the coronavirus.
The study’s analysis tracked anonymized cellphone data from the 10-day event. The results showed “smartphone pings from non-residents.” It also showed “foot traffic at restaurants and bars, retail establishments, entertainment venues, hotels and campgrounds each rose substantially.” Stay-at-home hours for local residents declined during the same time period.
Based on the increase, researchers estimated that COVID-19 cases connected to the gathering resulted in $12 billion in public health costs. The dollar amount is based on estimations that patients who test positive for COVID-19 cost an average of $46,000.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Controversy
Researchers concluded that more than 266,000 COVID-19 cases were linked to the event attended by more than 460,000 individuals. In fact, health officials have tied at least one death to the rally. The biker was a male in his 60s who did have other underlying conditions. Government officials connected at least 260 cases in 11 states to the Sturgis rally.
According to South Dakota’s Department of Transportation, the annual event ran from Aug. 7-16 and attracted more than 365,000 vehicles. Most people who visited Sturgis did not take coronavirus precautions. Many visitors ignored wearing face covers and social distancing, The Associated Press reported.
“The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the ‘worst-case scenarios’ for superspreading occurred simultaneously: the event was prolonged, included individuals packed closely together, involved a large out-of-town population (a population that was orders of magnitude larger than the local population), and had low compliance with recommended infection countermeasures such as the use of masks,” the researchers wrote.
However, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), a loyal supporter of President Trump, supported the Sturgis rally continuing as normal. She disputed the study’s claims on Twitter, even calling the analysis “fiction.”
[H/T The Hill]