Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota starting Friday, despite the 277 percent spike in COVID-19 cases nationally over the last three weeks brought on by the ‘Delta’ variant.
The 81st annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which runs from August 6 to 15 this year, is the largest bike motorcycle rally in the world and typically attracts about 700,000 riders each year to the town of Sturgis – population 7,000.
Even last year at the height of the pandemic, nearly 500,000 attended the event, which was later described as a ‘superspreader event’ and connected to at least 649 cases across the country and at least one death, according to a report by the Clinical Infectious Diseases.
There were many reports of bikers ditching their masks last year, and many have been seen without masks this year. There’s no mask mandate in place for during the event.
‘The Sturgis rally had many characteristics of a superspreading event: large crowds, high intensity of contact between people, potential for highly infectious individuals traveling from hotspots and events in poorly ventilated indoor environments,’ the report says.
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Despite a rise in pandemic numbers due to the Delta variant, tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts are gathering in Sturgis, South Dakota for the motorcycle rally
As seen in this picture, most people have ditched their masks
Motorcyclists cruised through downtown Sturgis in South Dakota starting Thursday night as the 10-day event begins
Rallygoers dance at a rock show on August 5 in Sturgis, South Dakota as part of the 10-day event
People packed into close quarters at a rock concert on August 5 in Sturgis for the world’s largest motorcycle rally
This year, the highly contagious ‘Delta’ variant is wreaking havoc on the US, which saw 109,824 new cases of the virus Thursday, It has a seven-day rolling average of 98,518 new cases.
The country hadn’t had an average of 100,000 cases per day since mid-February.
There were 535 COVID-19 related deaths recorded Thursday, with a seven-day average of 426 deaths, which is a 58 percent spike over the last three weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that 93 percent of all cases are linked to the variant, including its subtypes.
Motorcyclists were filing into Sturgis for the rally Thursday night. There’s no mask mandate in place
Last year, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was a ‘superspreader event’, and this year the ‘Delta’ variant is ravaging the country, but riders like the ones pictured, rode into the small South Dakota town for this year’s event
Motorcyclists cram into the small South Dakota town of Sturgis for the world’s largest motorcycle rally despite the surging number of COVID cases in the state and across the US
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is embracing the event, which fuels the area’s economy and generates over $800 million in sales, according to the state tourism department
Health experts said the cause is mainly the highly transmissible Delta variant spreading in areas with low vaccination rates.
South Dakota is in the middle of the pack in terms of statewide vaccination rate, with about 59 percent of eligible people receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.
The South Dakota Department of Health reported 429 new cases across the state, bringing the total of active cases to 657.
Despite the uptick in COVID-19 cases, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is embracing the event, which fuels the area’s economy and generates over $800 million in sales, according to the state tourism department.
‘The rally is a behemoth, and you cannot stop it,’ local Carol Fellner told MarketWatch. ‘I feel absolutely powerless.’
Hundreds of thousands of people line the streets of Sturgis, South Dakota on Friday for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Motorcyclists riding through South Dakota for the 81st annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 6