South Dakota sees 352% Covid surge in wake of biker event dubbed a ‘super spreader’ last year

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Motorcycle enthusiasts attend the 81st annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on 8 August, 2021 (Getty Images)
Motorcycle enthusiasts attend the 81st annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on 8 August, 2021 (Getty Images)

South Dakota’s coronavirus cases have jumped by more than 300 per cent, in two weeks, following the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which saw more than 500,000 people descend on the town.

The Sturgis event contributes an estimated annual revenue of $800 million to the town of Sturgis, which has a population of around 6,600. According to New York Times coronavirus data, there has been a staggering 352 per cent increase in cases in the state in the past 14 days, averaging 243 cases and 123 hospitalisations daily.

The same festival last year was dubbed a “super spreader” event, as coronavirus cases accelerated following the rally.

“Any time you have a mass gathering of hundreds of thousands of people and then they return to their home states, you’re going to increase the likelihood of a ‘superspreader’ event,” Victor Huber, a biomedical sciences professor at the University of South Dakota, told NBC News.

Despite the Delta variant sweeping across the US, the organisers did not mandate masks at the rally – which has street food, bike shows, parties and live music – but did made Covid-19 tests, masks and hand sanitiser available and temporarily allowed alcohol to be consumed outdoors to avoid indoor crowding.

Dr Anthony Fauci warned prior to the event that we could see a new surge of coronavirus afterwards. “It’s understandable that people want to do the kinds of things they want to do, they want their freedom to do that,” Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press. “But there comes a time when you’re dealing with a public health crisis that could involve you, your family and everyone else, that something supersedes that need to do exactly what you want to do . . . let’s get this pandemic under control before we start acting like nothing is going on.”

More than 49 per cent of people in South Dakota have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Republican Gov Kristi Noem told The Associated Press that she has no plans to up her messaging on promoting the vaccine, claiming that messaging around it had reached “a saturation level where people start to tune you out”.

Ms Noem had a similar stance on mask-wearing – stating that it was unconstitutional to enforce it. “Any other governor that took a stronger mitigation measure they broke their oath to the Constitution,” she said. “Every governor that closed a business could be sued for the taking of that business.”

Ms Noem has previously been mocked for her anti-drug campaign slogan: “Meth. We’re On It.”