Weiland, an internist from Rapid City, told the Daily Beast he traveled to Florida to “escape the rally” despite an epidemic raging in the Sunshine State. The doc’s concern: that the massive South Dakota rally – organizers say more than 700,000 people were due to visit the Black Hills, setting an all-time record – could be dangerous, as the Delta variant of COVID- 19 is spreading across the country.
“Safe being in a gated community, I have strong feelings about what our governor is doing,” Weiland told The Daily Beast of his new digs in the south.
Weiland went on to claim that “the very first South Dakota resident to die was my patient,” arguing that like ex-President Trump, Noem was a thug and coronavirus denier who “should be exposed”.
Weiland declined to identify the patient, citing confidentiality concerns, but said the individual was over 60 – according to official statements at the time – and that he was a “great person. “.
The loss of this patient, and five others, to the coronavirus, is still painful for Weiland, 59.
Last year’s rally, which Noem also endorsed, was widely regarded as a big-scale event. But speaking out about the dangers posed by the rally is far from Weiland’s first political statement.
In 2010, he considered challenging Democrat MP Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in a primary after she voted against the Affordable Care Act. Weiland decided not to, but he and other South Dakota liberals offered only lukewarm support, and the incumbent was defeated that fall by a once-obscure state lawmaker: Noem .
Weiland’s brother Rick was a key aide to former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, who rose to the rank of Majority Leader. Rick Weiland lost a race for Congress to US Senator John Thune in 1996 and was defeated by Herseth Sandlin in a Congressional primary in 2002. In 2014 he was defeated by former Governor Mike Rounds in a race for the Senate.
Rick Weiland has, like his brother, turned his attention to healthcare, as the head of Dakotans for Health, which is seeking to pass a Medicaid expansion vote measure in 2022.
As Dr Kevin Weiland left the state to avoid the rally, Noem embraced him.
On Monday, she led her horse Ice Man to an outdoor press conference. The announcer signaled his arrival by saying, “If you love freedom, if you love South Dakota …”
Noem, carrying an American flag, mounted his horse on the stage.
“Welcome to South Dakota,” she told hordes of bikers. “Welcome to freedom. “
She later took part in a Black Hills motorcycle tour dubbed The Legends Ride, although the “celebrities” who gathered outside RallyFranklin, a Deadwood casino, are legends mostly in the minds of a youngster. group of fans.
She was to be joined by professional V-Twin bagger racers from the Bagger Racing League, former Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Earl Dotson, “Horny Mike” from History. Count cars, motorcycle artist Darren McKeag, musician and actor Sean McNabb, Ironman world champion Carlos Moleda and artist David Uhl.
Uhl’s painting titled “True Grit” which features Noem on his horse Ice Man at Custer State Park’s annual Buffalo Roundup, was auctioned off Monday. Proceeds will go to Treasured Lives, a non-profit agency dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking
The painting shows the governor on his horse, with motorcycles in the distance. The bikes weren’t really at the annual Buffalo Roundup, but he added them, and the bikers at Monday’s outdoor press conference roared in approval when told that.
“She had the courage and the courage to stand up for our freedom,” Uhl told the crowd. Only a few masks were visible.
The Legends Ride was supposed to end at the Buffalo Chip, the largest campground in the Sturgis area and the site of many rally gigs over the years. Politicians, including 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain, have long taken the stage to the roar of bikers and their motorcycles.
Most did not do so during a raging pandemic.
“For Governor Noem to join the Legends Ride and help us raise funds for worthy causes is a true honor,” Rod Woodruff, president of Sturgis Buffalo Chip, said in a statement.
Woodruff, a lean and sympathetic Republican lawyer and real estate developer called “Woody,” founded The Chip, as it is called, in 1981. It has hosted rock stars including Bob Dylan, Aerosmith and Kid Rock, who was to play the rally again this year.
Big name gigs, mixed with an appreciation for motorcycles and the majesty of the Black Hills, have turned the Sturgis Rally into a massive gathering over the past three decades. From its humble roots in 1938, when nine bikers rode tricks for 200 spectators at a one-day event, it grew into a huge deal that nearly doubled the population of South Dakota for a week.
But with the growth came controversy, even before the pandemic, with some residents upset by the rowdy and bawdy behavior displayed.
It’s always evident, with a topless woman riding a bike on Interstate 90 Sunday night, and a beefy, bald biker in a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Fuck Biden” strolling through downtown Spearfish, a nearby town, before getting on his iron steed.
Also looming: concerns about the number of deaths, in the short and medium term. As the Daily Beast previously reported, death is a key part of the rally philosophy.
So far, five people have died in motorcycle crashes in the region last week.
A 74-year-old man injured in an accident on August 2 died on Friday. Three other bikers were killed in separate crashes that day, including a 58-year-old woman and two men, one 58, the other 60.
On Saturday, after the rally officially started a day earlier, a 36-year-old woman died in a motorcycle accident. No name was disclosed in any of the fatalities.
Only Saturday’s death is on the official tally for the Sturgis Rally Tally, which runs from 6 a.m. on Saturday August 7 to 6 a.m. on Sunday August 15. But Department of Public Safety spokesman Tony Mangan said all deaths are included in statewide totals.
The deadly side of the gathering is obscured by parties, celebrations and concerts. These are the events that politicians attend – with controversy.
South Dakota Democratic Party Vice President Nikki Gronli told the Daily Beast Noem put her own pleasure and desire for publicity ahead of state security needs.
“The lack of concern not only for South Dakotas, but for citizens across the country is tragic. But that’s not shocking, ”said Gronli. “We have witnessed a lack of leadership in South Dakota throughout the pandemic. The cruel lack of concern for children and people across this country who cannot be vaccinated leaves me in a state of disbelief. It is truly heartless. The lack of honesty in acknowledging the danger of this variant shows a total disregard for life by the governor.
Also last year, Noem resisted calls for her to try to cancel the event.
After it ended, some healthcare analysts said it was a disaster and spread the coronavirus across the country. A research institute in Bonn, Germany has suggested there could be 266,000 cases linked to the rally, with a cost of $ 12.2 billion.
Noem rejected this request.
“This report is not scientific; it is fiction. Under the guise of academic research, this report is nothing less than an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom to attend Sturgis, ”she said in a press release. “Predictably, some in the media are reporting this unpaired model running out of steam, built on incredibly flawed assumptions that do not reflect the real facts and data here in South Dakota. “
Only one death, a man in his 60s with a history of health problems, was definitely linked to the 2020 Rally, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the event had “many characteristics of a wide spread event” and was linked to hundreds of cases nationwide.
Noem responded by calling the findings an “absolute lie” propagated by the liberal national media.
This year, Noem tweeted his support for the rally ahead of its official opening, even though hordes of bikers were already in the Black Hills. She said life is about risk, and bikers understand this better than most people.
Weiland, the doctor who left town, pleaded not to agree.
“After seeing six of my own patients die from COVID and deal with long-haul syndrome, I’m pissed off,” he told The Daily Beast.