As hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts descend on the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota for the 80th Strugis Motorcycle Rally, a medical expert has warned that the mass rally could turn into a “super spreader event” that could lead to a large regional coronavirus epidemic.
“I’m less concerned with these people riding their bikes through the hills than with what’s going on at night, in bars, restaurants and hotels,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said.
“When you watch the Sturgis video now, there are very few people wearing masks,” he added.
Although the United States has nearly 5 million cases of Covid-19, the highest in the world, the huge motorcycle rally is still going as planned. Last year over 500,000 people attended the annual gathering, this year organizers estimate that 250,000 could turn out, making it one of the largest gatherings in the world since the start of the pandemic.
At the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, a large campground near the event, owner Rod Woodruff said he was not concerned about the rally.
“Ride freely, take risks. It’s our motto, ”he says. “That doesn’t mean you don’t calculate them. And these people calculate their risks every time they get on a motorcycle. “
South Dakota recorded 9,477 coronavirus cases and 146 deaths on Saturday, according to the South Dakota Department of Health, far fewer than many U.S. states. However, local officials in the area around Strugis, which has a permanent population of around 7,000, have expressed concern about the potential for the virus to spread rapidly from participants in the 10-day event.
“They won’t be able to handle any sort of social distancing, there is a significant amount of alcohol involved, it’s a big party,” said Laura Armstrong, city council chairperson for Rapid City, the largest town near Sturgis. .
“They can infect our Native American population, our law enforcement, potentially our bar staff, our tourist attractions, our hotels and motels, and even our grocery stores. “
Reiner said he was particularly concerned about what would happen at the end of the rally and that attendees then returned to their home states across the United States, potentially contributing to the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus.
“A quarter of a million people are going to disperse in their communities, so this has the potential to be a very widespread event,” Reiner said.
“We heard a visitor say that they were just tired of it and looking to have fun. Well the virus doesn’t really care, ”he said. “It’s a ridiculous thing to have in the middle of a pandemic… The rest of the world is laughing at us. “
Watch the full interview here: