Sturgis Bike Event: A COVID Look Back

Remember the media coverage of the Sturgis, South Dakota Bike Rally. The event took place on Aug 8th to 16th and was expected to draw over 200,000 people.

Lets take a look back now and see what that did, if anything to the county and state numbers. Sturgis is in Meade County – population 7,000!. That’s right – the volume of visitors was almost 28x the number of residents. Many attendees were reported to not be wearing masks.

Cases Surge

For a county of 20,000 – new cases are now at an average of about 18 per day – and have dramatically risen over the past few weeks. About 190 people are contagious (based on the tested positive numbers) and about 225 are coping with the virus (they have had it less than 1 month).

Those numbers don’t sound like a lot – but they are off a very small base. Expressed in per million terms – gives a rate of new cases of about 600 per million – which is one of the highest in the country (number 56 out of over 3,000 counties).

Impacting South Dakota and other states

Predictably there is an impact on the broader state, and one some surrounding states. Let’s bear in the mind the US average daily case numbers have been falling and are currently 126 new cases per million per day.

North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa now have daily cases that are almost 3x the average of the US. On July 31st – South Dakota was less than ½ of the US average.

Lets put this another way to reinforce the point. In August, South Dakota recorded 4,558 cases of COVID – that’s 2.2x the total of the prior month. North Dakota logged 80% more cases in August than in July. Iowa up 27% over the same period.

Impact on Fatalities… too soon to tell

Its too early to say what the full impact is on fatalities. South Dakota fatalities are approximately the same in August as July – but this hasn’t given sufficient time for the full effect of the recent increase to be reflected in the numbers.

Fortunately the median income of Meade County, is a quite respectable level of $55,000 – resulting in a poverty rate (2015) of about 9%. That means health outcomes may well be better here than in other counties.

I will update this post in about a month and report back on the fatality rate. Only then can we start to get a sense of what the impact of this event was.

It certainly looks like the actions taken by South Dakota lead to more than 2x the number of cases reported in August versus July and may have contributed to an increase in cases in other states.

I’m sure the Sturgis motorcycle rally was a potentially large factor in this increase. If not this, then what other event or events could have caused the large increases reported here?

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