How much impact could Sturgis rally have on COVID caseload?
Fans attend a performance by Saul at the Iron Horse Saloon during the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Image via AP.


Rumbles from the motorcycles and rock shows of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally have hardly cleared from the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the reports of COVID-19 infections among rallygoers are already streaming in — 178 cases across five states, according to contact tracers.

In the three weeks since the rally kicked off, coronavirus cases in South Dakota have shot up at a startling pace — sixfold from the early days of August. While it is not clear how much rallygoers spread the virus through secondary infections, state health officials have so far reported 63 cases among South Dakota residents who attended the event.

The epicenter of the rally, Meade County, has become red-hot with new cases, reaching a per capita rate that is similar to the hardest-hit Southern states. The county reported the highest rate of cases in the state over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

The Black Hills region’s largest hospital system, Monument Health, warned Friday that it has seen hospitalizations from the virus rise from five to 78 this month. The hospital was bracing for more COVID-19 patients by converting rooms to intensive care units and reassigning staff.

Virus cases were already on the rise when the rally started, and it’s difficult to measure just how much the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is to blame in a region where local fairs, youth sports leagues and other gatherings have resumed.

However, Meade County could be a harbinger of things to come for the Upper Midwest as infections ripple from those events, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

“This coronavirus forest fire will keep burning any human wood it can find,” he said. “It will find you, and it’s so infectious.”

Health officials in North Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin all reported cases among people who attended the rally, with North Dakota also reporting two hospitalizations. Some health officials noted people could have caught the virus elsewhere.

A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined last year’s rally looked like a “superspreader event.” The team said the event offered a lesson: Such large gatherings can result in “widespread transmission” of infections and attendees should follow precautions like getting vaccinated, wearing masks and social distancing.

The aftermath of this year’s rally looks eerily similar to last year — when the event heralded a wave that did not subside until the winter.

But the pandemic fallout from the rally won’t be seen for weeks and an exact case count will likely remain unknown, Osterholm said.

Daniel Bucheli, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, said the virus spike is following “a national trend being experienced in every state, not just South Dakota.”

He also pointed out that Meade County’s vaccination rate of 45% lags behind the statewide rate of 56% eligible people vaccinated.

The city of Sturgis also downplayed the virus numbers, issuing a statement that blamed the increase in positivity rate on a “significant increase in testing performed to proactively reduce the spread of COVID-19” and accusing “individuals in the national media” of mischaracterizing the event.

Despite the more contagious delta variant, this year’s motorcycle rally was even bigger than last year. More than 500,000 people showed up during the 10-day rally.

The streets of Sturgis filled with rallygoers drawn to the libertarian rules of South Dakota — motorcycle helmets weren’t required, minimal attire and bodypainting were welcome, and masks were often nowhere in sight. Bikers bellied up to bars and packed into rock shows.

Two bands that performed at the rally have canceled shows after musicians came down with the virus. Corey Taylor, the lead singer of Slipknot who had embarked on a solo tour, told fans he was “very, very sick” from COVID-19, though he did not say where he contracted it.

“This is the worst I’ve ever been sick in my life,” Taylor said in a Facebook video this week. “Had I not been vaccinated, I shudder to think how bad it would have been.”


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

Associated Press


  • Alex

    August 28, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    Noem first allowed what she was told would cause an enormous outbreak, and it did.
    Then she doubled down on being a far right Trumpian moron and allowed it again.
    This is a stunning example of the stupidity of Republicans.

    • Impeach Biden

      August 28, 2021 at 2:03 pm

      Kind of early for the Democrat Zombies to be out. I’ll see your Sturgis comment and raise you on the morons and their poor planning of the Kabul withdrawal. Your Idiot in Chief has been in office for two of the deadliest days for US Military. Of course the bomb at Kabul and then ten years ago with the downing of “Extortion 17”. Lots of blood on the Pres and when he was VP.

      • Alex

        August 28, 2021 at 2:43 pm


        You mean the 20 year war that killed thousands of our troops and cost us $trillions for nothing that Bush and Cheney saddled us with?

        I congratulate Biden on ending that shitshow.

        Now I expect him to shut the Guantanamo shitshow.

        That’ll annoy you too huh?

        • Impeach Biden

          August 28, 2021 at 2:56 pm

          Let me guess waterboarding is torture in your sensitive world. Read about the treatment of POW’S during the Iraq War. They laugh at your tortuous waterboarding.

          • Alex

            August 28, 2021 at 3:03 pm

            So you still think making someone feel like they’re drowning (suffocating from lack of oxygen) isn’t a cruel and unusual punishment? That last bit is what the Constitution banned.

            Oh and the same thing happens with a covid infection. You slowly suffocate.

            I pity your narrow minded ignorance about how reality works son.

          • Impeach Biden

            August 28, 2021 at 3:13 pm

            Bravo 2 zero. Read the book “son”. You are clueless as always. The prisoners at Gitmo usually gain weight and have access to a library with books in their native language. Read the book and tell me the Iraqi’s followed the Geneva Convention “son”.

          • Alex

            August 28, 2021 at 3:18 pm

            When are you gonna learn you _always_ limp away from me bleeding son?

          • Impeach Biden

            August 28, 2021 at 3:23 pm

            Alex I think you are the one that needs an ambulance.🤣

          • Alex

            August 28, 2021 at 3:26 pm

            Thank you for the meaningless, irrelevant, childish comeback.

            You proved my point.

          • Impeach Biden

            August 28, 2021 at 4:14 pm

            Alex, the smartest guy in the room. No need to ask, he will tell you. What he won’t tell you is that he is just a blowhard. His personal life hasn’t followed his superiority and intellect. He is all powerful on a keyboard but really hasn’t accomplished much in life.

          • Alex

            August 28, 2021 at 4:20 pm

            Awww, you get beat, and you don’t know when to stay down.

            You’re just like every other far right idiot.

            No challenge.

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    • Impeach Biden

      August 28, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      You need to find another place to advertise. The Democrats don’t like to work, but they will take free money, education, phones, child care, etc. Now if you are offering that, they are all ears

      • Alex

        August 28, 2021 at 2:59 pm


        Odd then that blue states and counties are wealthier and produce more than red states huh?

        Poor little babbler of far right lies

        • Impeach Biden

          August 28, 2021 at 4:10 pm

          Let me guess you came from one of those wealthy blue states with your blue government worker blue pension that is now bankrupting your blue state. Now you pontificate in a red state, paying red income taxes, enjoying a red higher quality of life and enjoy red infrastructure with roads without potholes. Is that about right blue man?

  • Charles

    August 28, 2021 at 7:31 pm

    Wondering if your information is accurate and correct – much from florida politics is highly questionable.
    What is not questionable is your bias. You seem almost joyful – that is very defining and morally disgusting.
    OH, and when should we expect your article on covid at the Obama party and mixed government messaging.
    Yes i’ve been vaccinated so don’t go down your antivaxer rat hole

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 30, 2021 at 5:37 am

    Got to know and spend time with bikers! These are folks that have and will do what it takes to keep Americans free. Even the Hell’s Angels will serve and protect the common good. But the political bs is more prevalent and out there longer to sort it out. Bikers will loose on this. But Bikers vaccinate and social distant! Death wish is all some of the politicians are pushing! Tell the to eat shit and due. Rebel bikers ! Live bikers ! Vaccines and ride with social distance! Love ❤️

  • A Stray Vulcan

    August 30, 2021 at 11:36 am

    In response to the headline of the story, certainly not nearly as much as Biden’s catastrophic decision to go with open borders in the Southern United States. A definitive super spreader event.

  • martin

    August 30, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    Funny how the virus knows not to spread when thousands of people are rioting, as they did all last summer. The virus also knows not to spread when dem politicians are holding private parties and not wearing masks. The virus knows not to spread when a certain ex president throws a huge birthday bash to celebrate his perceived self-importance. The virus knows not to spread when thousands of covid positive illegals are allowed to stream across the border every day.

    This on-line rag proves that true journalism has died. And as much as I hate to admit it, even sonja is correct on this one.

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