SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Health officials in 12 states are reporting more than 260 cases of COVID-19 linked to the massive motorcycle rally held for 10 days last month in Sturgis, S.D., according to a Forum News Service analysis Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Since the rally last day on Aug. 16, 263 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the event, with 105 in South Dakota alone, as well Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Montana, Washington, New Jersey and Wisconsin, according to FNS and other media reports.
It will likely never be clear how many cases of COVID-19 across the country are connected to the Sturgis rally due to the lack of a national test and contact tracing system. The state-by-state patchwork nature of COVID-19 notifications is built to find and notify close contacts and publicize specific public exposures, not track the cross-state spread of the virus from a massive event.
But the FNS state tally marks the largest yet known number of confirmed cases linked to the motorcycle rally, where the South Dakota Department of Transportation counted about 460,000 vehicles from across the country, including large states with recent COVID-19 surges.
The state tallies are:
- South Dakota: 105
- Minnesota: 49
- North Dakota: 30
- Colorado: 25
- Wyoming: 13
- Michigan: 11
- New Hampshire: 8
- Nebraska: 7
- Montana: 7
- Washington: 3
- New Jersey: 3
- Wisconsin: 2
The City of Sturgis hosted a COVID-19 mass testing event for its citizens following the rally, offering 1,300 tests, or 20% of the city's population. But only 650 people decided to be tested in the event, whose results were announced late last week. All those tested hadn't experienced COVID-19 symptoms, and only 26 people tested positive for the virus, a positive test rate of 4%.
"Though total attendees of the event far surpassed all anticipations, the vast majority of attendees greatly changed their behaviors by spending far less time in downtown Sturgis and far more time socially distant, riding the beautiful Black Hills," the City of Sturgis said in its testing announcement.
While it's not clear there's a direct connection, South Dakota is now amid a sustained surge of COVID-19 that started in mid August, just about the time hundreds of thousands of bikers from across the nation flooded the state for pre-rally tourism and festivities.
The daily count of South Dakotans still considered sick with COVID-19 was hovering around 900 going into August. As of Sept. 1, there were 2,750 active COVID-19 cases in the state, the highest daily total since the beginning of the pandemic in March.