Several experts from around the world, including researchers at the Johns Hopkins University are raising questions about a study that estimated that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held in August 2020 led to more than 2,50,000 new cases of COVID-19 across the US. The study, released by four economics associated with the Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies at San Diego State University, also found that the annual event resulted in more than $12 billion in health care costs due to the spike in coronavirus infections.
The study claimed to have anonymised cell phone data from in and around the Sturgis area during the 10-day rally, which saw 5,00,000 attendees, and compared that data to the rate of new COVID-19 cases in the county that hosted the rally, as well as counties that sent the most attendees, showing an increase in both over the following weeks. Now several experts have casted some doubt on the study and the number of COVID-19 cases it says were directly linked to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University have called out several facets of the study to explain why some of the staggering results should be "interpreted cautiously." While the researchers admitted that the event did cause a spike in infections, they called the model used to reach the conclusions "relatively weak".
In another report published by Jennifer Dowd, deputy director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, says the 2,50,000 estimate is at best an "absolute worst case scenario number," and the actual number of infections may only be in hundreds, with contact tracing efforts showing just over 250 cases in 12 states related to the Sturgis Rally since September 2. Dowd argues it's unlikely rally attendees had time to get infected, ride home, infect others, and have those new infections show up in county statistics by September 2, just two weeks after the end of the rally.