Minnesota did not have a huge motorcycle rally from August 7 to 16. No, that was Sturgis, South Dakota. But what happens in South Dakota doesn’t necessarily stay in South Dakota.
In fact, a study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) clearly showed that it didn’t and how one state can eventually affect other states when it comes to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. That’s because States aren’t completely separate like Kanye West fans and Taylor Swift fans. Instead, states are quite interconnected in many different ways. People cross state boundaries to do things like go to work, attend school, visit friends, and eat cheese. The study found that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in mid-August subsequently led to Covid-19 coronavirus outbreaks in Minnesota later that month and into September.
In other words, it further confirmed fears from before the rally. Yep, that’s what happens when you bring together around 460,000 people from different parts of the country for about 10 days in the middle of a Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and don’t impose rigorous transmission precautions. The result is gimme an outbreak.
This outbreak in Minnesota included at least 51 people who had attended the rally and at least 35 who didn’t even participate in the rally or travel to Sturgis. In other words, the rally affected (or indirectly infected) people who weren’t even there. Using genomic sequencing, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) counted at least 86 cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) infections in the Gopher State tied to the Sturgis rally. Four of these cases ended up in hospitalizations and one in death. The Sturgis Rally, which again wasn’t even in Minnesota, had apparently spread the virus to at least 34% of Minnesota’s 87 counties.
All of this likely significantly underestimates the Covid-19 coronavirus impact of the Sturgis Rally. The study probably missed a number of Covid-19 cases in Minnesota that could have been linked to the rally. It also didn’t look at what happened in other states.
Pictures from the rally suggest that many attendees were not taking precautions recommended by public health experts. Many people did not seem to be wearing face coverings. (By the way, a painting of President Donald Trump on your chest does not count as a face covering.)
And many people seemed to be mixing without staying at least six feet or one Kid Rock away from each other. (Kid Rock is about six feet tall without the hat.)
It’s not clear how many attendees were diligently washing their hands and were singing through at least the first chorus of the song “Barbie Girl,” which is about 20 seconds, while lathering up with soap. It’s also not clear how aggressive people at the motorcycle rally were at regularly disinfecting surfaces like tables, door knobs, motorcycles, and their copies of the book Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) has criticized South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) for not doing more to prevent the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus. According to CBS 4 Minnesota, Walz called the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally “absolutely unnecessary,” and questioned why Noem hasn’t enacted a South Dakota-wide face mask mandate. Walz is not the only person to raise concerns about Noem’s handling of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. For example:
Seeing another state have a mass gathering without enforcing proper precautions during a pandemic is not like seeing someone else in the neighborhood trim their hedges to look like characters on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. You can’t just shake your head, say that you would never do that yourself, and try to avoid that street. No, it’s more like someone coming right onto your property and trimming your hedges.
The Sturgis Rally is yet another example of how one State’s not controlling or containing the virus can soon affect other states. It shows why leaving the pandemic response up to each State makes about as much sense as leaving the game plan for a football team up to each individual player without much coordination. The virus doesn’t acknowledge or respect state boundaries. When it comes to the Covid-19 coronavirus, what happens in South Dakota most likely won’t stay in South Dakota.
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