Researchers Say Sturgis Rally “Super Spreader Event”; Gov. Noem Issues Strong Statement

Researchers with the IZA Institute of Labor Economics and the San Diego State University’s Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies are making big claims regarding the possibility of the spread of COVID-19 from the Sturgis Rally.

The researchers published a study that says the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally should be considered a Super Spreader event for the Coronavirus, and linked to more than 266,000 cases of the virus. However, health officials have maintained that even with some 290 cases confirmed in a dozen states, it would be impossible to know the actual number of cases stemming from the event.

The researchers used cellphone location tracking data as well as information on attendees’ states of residence. The 63-page report is the first known research to estimate the COVID-19 case spread and public health cost of the rally. The researchers calculated the Sturgis Rally would have an overall public health cost of $12.2 Billion, or more than $26,000  per attendee because of the spread of the virus from those who contracted it at Sturgis. However, that amount would assume every case required health care at the tax payer expense, when there would actually be a number of cases paid for by insurance and the patients themselves.

During the South Dakota Department of Health semiweekly media call on COVID-19, State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton and State Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon questioned the methods used in the research and pointed out that the research was released as a “white paper”, which means that it was not peer reviewed. Dr. Clayton also points out that the uptick in COVID-19 cases came at a time when schools and universities across the state and around the nation were going back into session, which would also contribute to an increase in cases.

You can hear the Q & A with the health department here:

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who supported the rally and encourages people to continue to visit South Dakota, issued the following statement on the report:

“This report isn’t science; it’s fiction. Under the guise of academic research, this report is nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom to attend Sturgis,” said Governor Noem. “Predictably, some in the media breathlessly report on this non-peer reviewed model, built on incredibly faulty assumptions that do not reflect the actual facts and data here in South Dakota.

“At one point, academic modeling also told us that South Dakota would have 10,000 COVID patients in the hospital at our peak.  Today, we have less than 70.  I look forward to good journalists, credible academics, and honest citizens repudiating this nonsense.”

More than 460,000 people attended the rally.

View the research paper here.

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