Rally

COVID cases spike by more than 500% in weeks after Sturgis Bike rally in South Dakota

COVID-19 cases have spiked more than 500% in the weeks after hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists flocked to South Dakota for the famous Sturgis Bike Rally, which drew one of its largest crowds yet this year despite the fast-spreading delta variant.

The annual event kicked off in Meade County on Aug. 6 and wrapped on Aug. 15. Just two days before motorcycle enthusiasts descended on the state, South Dakota reported a total of 657 active cases.

Motorcycles fill the streets of Sturgis, S.D on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began.

Motorcycles fill the streets of Sturgis, S.D on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began.

Motorcycles fill the streets of Sturgis, S.D on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began. (Stephen Groves/)

As of Friday, there were 3,992 people battling infections across South Dakota, with an average of 243 new cases and 123 hospitalizations daily. Meade County, home to Sturgis, has counted 330 new cases in the last

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Warnings About the Sturgis Rally Have Come Tragically True

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Getty

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Getty

In western South Dakota’s Meade County, more than one in three COVID-19 tests are currently returning positive, and over the last three weeks, seven-day average case counts have increased by 3,400 percent. This exponential growth in cases is likely attributable to the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew an estimated half a million visitors to Meade County and its environs from Aug. 6 through 15, potentially acting as a superspreader event.

The pandemic is surging nationally, not just proximal to biker chaos in South Dakota. Defined in large part by the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the United States is experiencing its fourth surge of COVID-19 right now, and our nationwide case counts have increased by 64.4 percent over the last 21 days. (For more on our methodology, see our note at the bottom of this

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South Dakota COVID cases increase 456% since Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

South Dakota has seen a sharp increase in daily COVID-19 cases following the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Meade County this month. Hundreds of thousands of bikers descended upon the area August 6-15, despite the Delta variant wreaking havoc on the U.S. 

On August 4, the date closest to the start of the rally for which data was available, the state reported 657 active cases. On August 25, the state reported 3,655 active cases. That’s a 456% increase of active cases from before the start of the rally to two weeks after, according to the state’s department of health.

As of August 24, about two weeks from the start of the event, South Dakota saw a weekly positivity rate of 38.8%. The week leading up to the rally — July 30 to August 6 — the state’s weekly positivity rate was much lower, at 10.38%, the department of health data shows.

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COVID Cases Are Up 152% in South Dakota Following the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Scott Olson/Getty Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Cases of COVID-19 have jumped up nearly sixfold in South Dakota in the two weeks following the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Prior to the 10-day rally, which attracts thousands of people from across the Midwest for concerts and bar hopping in the state’s Meade County, South Dakota was averaging around 50 new infections a day. In the two weeks since, cases are now up 152%, according to The New York Times, and on Aug. 24 the state reported 785 new infections.

Meade County now has the second-highest infection rate in the state, and cases there have spiked by 700%. The county’s weekly test-positivity rate is now at 36.1%, with more than one in three COVID-19 tests coming back positive, according to KELO-TV. About 39% of county residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

South Dakota Department of Health spokesperson

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