At Least 103 New Coronavirus Cases in 8 States Linked to South Dakota Motorcycle Rally

Despite the ongoing pandemic, hundreds of thousands of bikers attended the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally earlier this month

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Motorcyclists arrive in Sturgis, South Dakota, ahead of the start of the annual event . Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

More than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across eight states have been linked to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held earlier this month in South Dakota.

Jeremy Fugleberg, regional health correspondent for Forum News Service, reported Tuesday on Twitter that at least 103 new cases of coronavirus are connected to the annual 10-day event, which was held from Aug. 7 to Aug. 16 in Sturgis. It was attended by hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom did not wear masks and clearly violated social distance orders.

South Dakota has reported 37 cases linked to the event, state epidemiologist Josh Clayton told Inforum.

Minnesota has reported 27 cases linked to the rally. While 25 were attendees, the other two were employees or volunteers at the event, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and Director of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology Kris Ehresmann told local news station KSTP.

Other states affected include North Dakota, with 17 cases; Nebraska and Wyoming, each with 7 cases; Montana, with 5 linked cases; Wisconsin with 2; and Washington with 1, according to Fugleberg, who cited various news outlets, including Star Herald, Argus Leader, NBC Montana, and the Star Tribune.

Despite the national health crisis, hundreds of thousands of bikers began arriving in Sturgis on Aug. 7, ignoring warnings about the risks of mass gatherings. Hardly anyone wore masks, and there was little room for social distancing. A shirt for sale read, "Screw COVID I went to Sturgis," according to the Associated Press.

According to South Dakota Department of Transportation, a total of 460,000 vehicles arrived at this year's rally, down 8 percent from the roughly 500,000 vehicles at last year's rally — but significantly higher than the 250,000 people initially expected to gather at the event this year.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Visitors attending a concert in Sturgis on Friday. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
A woman watching a band perform at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

During the first weekend of the rally, thousands of attendees could be seen gathered in a massive crowd during a performance by Smash Mouth, as evident in a video shared on Twitter on by news reporter Connor Matteson.

"We're all here together now and we’re being human once again," lead singer Steve Harwell could be heard saying in the video, before he added, "F--- that COVID s---," which earned cheers and laughs from the audience.

Prior to the rally, a survey showed more than 60 percent of Sturgis residents preferred the event be postponed. Although the city forged ahead — the rally is a huge boon for local businesses — it did make safety modifications.

"In addition to the normal cleaning efforts, nightly sanitization of sidewalk areas will take place in the downtown area," the city wrote in a press release, noting the continuance of the city's Good Deeds program, which provides a free contactless delivery service for residents with pre-existing conditions or health concerns.

Additionally, the city canceled a number of events, including parades and concerts, in order to reduce crowding in the city's downtown hub.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Stephen Groves/AP/Shutterstock

Gov. Kristi Noem seemed unconcerned about the risk, saying before the rally began that South Dakota is "in a good spot."

"I trusted my people, they trusted me, and South Dakota is in a good spot in our fight against COVID-19," Gov. Noem tweeted. "The #Sturgis motorcycle rally starts this weekend, and we're excited for visitors to see what our great state has to offer!"

As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 5.7 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus, while at least 177,500 patients have died, according to the New York Times' database.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

Related Articles