The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which last year was linked to hundreds of coronavirus infections across multiple states, will welcome as many 700,000 of bikers to South Dakota starting Friday despite a surge of new cases nationwide powered by the more-infectious delta variant.
No capacity restrictions or mask mandates are in place for the event and visitors are not required to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test, though organizers will provide sanitizing stations and Covid-19 self-testing kits free of charge.
The City of Sturgis last week also signed off on a temporary open-container policy for the duration of the rally, which will allow bikers to drink alcohol outdoors in a bid to prevent bars and other indoor venues from becoming too crowded.
South Dakota is among the states reporting the fewest new coronavirus infections per capita in the country, though new cases are on the rise and have jumped by 90% over the past two weeks.
About 47% of the state population is fully vaccinated, slightly below the 50% nationwide mark that the White House said was crossed Friday.
The estimated 700,000 attendees is a jump from the 460,000 the event attracted last year in the midst of last summer’s coronavirus outbreaks, despite many of the city-sponsored events being cancelled.
An April study from the CDC linked 649 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death across multiple states to the rally last year, though researchers noted the figures are likely an undercount since events involving traveling attendees are more difficult to contact trace.
Large events such as the Sturgis rally have come under scrutiny in recent weeks amid a surge of new coronavirus infections and a sharp rise in hospitalizations driven by the delta variant, a more infectious coronavirus strain. A CDC study released last week found large public events played a key role in a delta outbreak in Massachusetts last month with 469 linked cases, 74% of which were in vaccinated patients. The study was a key factor in the CDC’s decision to recommend last week that even vaccinated people mask up in areas with high transmission rates, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Attracts Thousands, With Few Masks And Little Social Distancing (Photos) (Forbes)
Will Lollapalooza, Sturgis Rally Be Covid-19 Coronavirus Delta Variant Superspreader Events? (Forbes)