No one saw this coming: the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has been linked to at least seven new cases of the coronavirus, with many more likely to come in the days ahead.
On Thursday, the Panhandle Public Health District confirmed seven new cases of COVID-19 in South Dakota and nearby Nebraska “tied to the rally,” according to NBC News. Meanwhile, ABC 5 News reports that local Sturgis officials are planning to conduct mass testing of its residents next week in an attempt to mitigate a possible outbreak of infections from the rally. South Dakota health officials say they’ve seen a 43% increase in positive coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, with 125 new cases alone confirmed on Thursday.
Upwards of 450,000 people attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally earlier this month, making it the largest physical mass gathering to take place in the US since the beginning of the pandemic. Organizers behind Sturgis’ flagship event, the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, encouraged its attendees to follow CDC guidelines as it pertained to the pandemic. They promised that hand sanitizer would be readily available throughout the park, and that guests would be required to have a mask with them upon entering the amphitheater.
However, photos and video from the Buffalo Chip showed few people wearing masks or practicing social distancing. One of the event’s headlining musical acts, Smash Mouth, even seemed to mock the pandemic, yelling out at one point, “Fuck that COVID shit!”
Our contributing photographer, Amy Harris, attended several other Sturgis events over the weekend and reported seeing a similar disregard for CDC guidelines. “I definitely stood out in the crowd with the camera and as one of the few people in town wearing a face mask,” she recounted. “No one that I spoke to during the entire weekend denied that the virus existed. They simply stated that they were willing to take the risk to get out of the house and see their friends for the annual trip.”
Editor’s Note: Stay safe by picking up one of our custom face masks. A portion of the proceeds will benefit MusiCares’ COVID-19 Artist Relief fund supporting independent musicians.