The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is being called a 'super spreader' event after a study found it could have caused 19 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases in the US last month. The study, carried out by four researchers at San Diego State University's Centre for Health Economics and Policy Studies, estimate the 10-day party in South Dakota could be responsible for as many as 2,66,796 cases of COVID-19. That number amounts to 19 per cent of the 1.4 million new cases reported in the US between August 2 and September 2, and the study points out that the resulting cost of medical care would total more than $12 billion (approximately ₹ 88,000 crore).
The researchers used anonymised mobile phone data to track where attendees had travelled from before and after the rally. From this they were able to trace the attendees through their mobile footprint, linking them back to their hometown where COVID-19 cases were then investigated. From the compiled data, the researchers found that counties that had the highest amount of Sturgis attendees saw COVID-19 cases rise on an average by more than 10 per cent, when compared to neighbouring states that didn't have any attendees at the event.
According to the study, the rally led to a 35 per cent increase in cases per 1,000 population in South Dakota. The research also shows that in areas that contributed the highest number of visitors to the event, COVID-19 cases have risen by 7 and 12.5 per cent compared to areas that didn't have a lot of riders going to the rally. These findings suggest that people who went to Sturgis brought COVID-19 back to their hometowns after returning.
While the city of Sturgis tested workers at the event with daily screenings and offered PPE to local businesses, there were no lockdown measures, no limits on number of people gathering in crowds, and there were no requirements to wear masks. In all, an estimated 4,62,182 people attended, with bars and restaurants open fully, and scores of bikers attending the events, most of them without any masks or maintaining any social distancing. There are even indications that this year's rally had reported 27 per cent increase in liquor store sales compared to the same period in 2019 despite a lower overall attendance.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is one of the most well-known motorcycle events in the US, and has been an annual event since 1938. In recent years, more than 5,00,000 enthusiasts have been converging in the South Dakota city every year, for the 10-day event.
(Source: Link to the study)