LOCAL nurses have blasted concerns about Covid-19 spreading at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and said those worried “shouldn’t live here.”
Their comments come as the annual event takes place in South Dakota with thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts, and as coronavirus cases are on the rise across the United States.
A 46-year-old Sturgis emergency-room nurse manager, Rikki Plaggemeyer, told The Daily Beast: “Living in Sturgis, I do hear [of] people that live here that don’t love the rally.
“If you don’t like to live in Sturgis, and you don’t like the Sturgis Rally, you shouldn’t live here.
“It gives us great experiences in the ER and in the hospital, and I spend most of my time during the rally here.”
Registered nurse Jamie Lascelles, 30, also enjoys attending the annual event which can sometimes amass more than 750,000 people.
But when it comes to people wearing masks in hospitals or in their local area, Lascelles explained: “We do have some that don’t approve of it.
“And it’s unfortunate, but that’s just kind of where we live.”
Despite the nurses’ view on how the rally could affect Covid cases in the area, the Minnesota Department of Health has released a warning on how the event could make things worse.
“The risk increases with larger groups and longer durations of exposure, especially in settings where there may be many unvaccinated people and social distancing and wearing masks aren’t routinely practiced,” officials said in a statement, according to the Star Tribune.
“Any event or setting that is conducive to spreading the virus will continue to allow more variants to develop, undermining the gains we have already made with this virus.”
Health experts are concerned about how the rally will affect Covid infection rates after last year’s event left hundreds infected.
Approximately 46 percent of adults who reside in the area that hosts the rally are fully vaccinated, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rally’s ceremonial grand marshal, Jody Perewitz told The Associated Press that she was “ecstatic” to see how many people would show up for the opening ceremony.
And Pam Williamson, who attended the event last year, said: “We’re out in the wide open. If you want to wear a mask, that’s your business. If you don’t, that’s your business.”
However, not everyone is looking at the rally in a relaxed manner.
Dr. Shankar Kurra, the VP of medical affairs at Monument Health in Rapid City, also spoke with The Daily Beast and warned the rally brings a “very high risk” of multiple people getting sick with Covid.
The 54-year-old doctor added: “My concern would be with the Delta variant, which as we know is highly transmissible.
“The fact is, it’s a mass gathering event. It puts people at risk. That’s the nature of this virus.”
Meanwhile, the South Dakota Department of Health Agency is paying close attention as to how the rally goes, spokesman Daniel Bucheli told The Daily Beast.
He said: “We had 125 COVID-19 cases that reported Sturgis Rally attendance last year. Anytime you have a large group of people come together, there are risks, but with the proper precautions and mitigation practices, it can be done safely.”
Bucheli said the health department is working with “Monument Health and local partners to provide free COVID-19 Antigen tests” to attendees who are looking to get tested.