As hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts flock to the tiny town of Sturgis, South Dakota, to host the 80th Strugis Motorcycle Rally, a medical expert warned that the mass gathering could be a “super-spread event”
“I’m less concerned about those people who just ride their bikes through the hills than I am about what happens at night, in bars, restaurants and hotels,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Rainer.
“When you look at the Sturgis video now, there are very few people wearing masks,” he added.
Although the United States has nearly 5 million cases of the Covid-19, the world’s tallest, the huge motorcycle rally continues as planned. Last year, more than 500,000 people attended the annual gathering, and this year the organizers estimate that 250,000 can show up, making it one of the largest gatherings in the world since the pandemic began.
At the Sturgess Buffalo chip, a large campsite near the event, owner Rod Woodruff said he was not worried about the rally.
“Ride for free, take a risk. This is our motto,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t calculate them. And these people calculate their risks every time they get on a motorcycle.”
South Dakota reported 9,477 coronavirus cases and 146 deaths as of Saturday, according to the South Dakota Department of Health, far lower than many states in the United States. However, local officials in the area around Strugis, which has a permanent population of about 7,000, said they were concerned about the potential of the virus to spread quickly through participants in the 10-day event.
“They won’t be able to deal with any kind of social distancing. It involves a significant amount of alcohol. It’s a huge party,” said Laura Armstrong, president of Rapid City, the largest city near Sturgess.
“They can infect Native Americans, our law enforcement agencies, potentially our bar staff, our tourist attractions, our hotels and motels, and even our grocery stores.”
Rainer said he was particularly concerned about what would happen when the rally ended and participants then headed back to their home states in the United States, which potentially helped further the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus.
“A quarter of a million people will be spreading in their communities, so this has the potential to be a super spreading event,” Rainer said.
“We heard a visitor say they were just tired of it and wanted 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 laughs at us.”
Watch the full interview here: