- On Friday, the world-famous Sturgis motorcycle rally kicked off its 10-day celebration.
- Up to 250,000 bikers – a smaller crowd than usual – are expected to descend on the small town of South Dakota.
- Organizers ignored the surge in coronavirus cases in the United States to host the annual event, even as the majority of the city’s citizens wanted it canceled.
- Most event activities, such as rides and concerts, take place outdoors. But even in the crowded indoor bars, there were few masks in sight.
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There were plenty of motorcycles and few masks on display as the Sturgis Rally – the largest motorcycle gathering of its kind – kicked off in Sturgis, South Dakota on Friday.
Despite the outbreak of the virus cases in the United States and against the wishes of most of the 7,000 residents of the small town, CNN reports, the annual festival is expected to attract up to 250,000 visitors during its 10 days of concerts, rides group, poker tournaments, etc.
“There are people across America who have been locked up for months and months,” City Manager Daniel Ainslie told CNN. “We’ve heard people say it doesn’t matter, they come to Sturgis. So with that, the board finally decided that it was really vital for the community to be prepared for the extra people we were going to end up. having. ”
South Dakota, with its abundance of rural communities, has largely avoided the brunt of the pandemic – claiming just 9,605 of the more than 5 million cases reported in the country so far. That number is increasing, however, with 129 new cases reported on Sunday. Despite the increase, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said on Friday the state “is well placed” in welcoming bikers.
—Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) August 7, 2020
Most of the rally’s events take place outdoors, where the spread of the virus appears to be more limited, but drinking in bars remains one of the main attractions of the festival. If an outbreak does occur this week, experts fear the massive convergence on a small town with limited medical resources will make it a very common occurrence when party-goers return home.
Most infections can be attributed to these very widespread events, where a person infects many more, according to recent research from Hong Kong. The study described super-spreading events as the primary means of transmission of the virus.
“The super-spread events are happening more than expected, more than could be accidentally explained,” Ben Cowling, an infectious disease researcher who co-authored the study, told Business Insider in June. “The frequency of over-spreading exceeds what we could have imagined. “
It doesn’t hinder Sturgis.
“I haven’t seen much change in attendance so far,” the owner of a popular nearby campground told The New York Times. “We told everyone if you are worried about it, stay home, don’t come. ”
Many of those who have come are not at all worried.
“I’m not convinced it’s real,” Thomas Seale of Denver, Colorado, told The New York Times. “I think it’s nothing more than the flu. If I die from the virus, it was just supposed to be. ”
And the rally-typical debauchery hasn’t slowed down either. CBS News reports that local police made 84 arrests, responded to 18 accidents and issued 226 citations in the first 24 hours of the rally over the weekend.