How bik­ers at big rally spread bug

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY TIM BALK

The Stur­gis Mo­tor­cy­cle Rally, which drew some 460,000 peo­ple to small­town South Dakota in Au­gust, has been linked to dozens of COVID-19 cases across state lines in Min­nesota, ac­cord­ing to a study re­leased by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion on Fri­day.

The re­port builds on ev­i­dence that the enor­mous 10-day biker rally pow­ered COVID out­breaks far be­yond Stur­gis, a city of about 7,000 peo­ple in western South Dakota.

A sep­a­rate study pub­lished in Septem­ber es­ti­mated that the rally could have been con­nected to more than 265,000 to­tal cases. The re­port was harshly crit­i­cized by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who called it “fic­tion” in a tweet.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported in Septem­ber that at least 290 peo­ple across a dozen states had tested pos­i­tive for coron­avirus af­ter at­tend­ing the crowded, largely mask-free mo­tor­cy­cle cel­e­bra­tion held amid a on­cein-a-cen­tury pan­demic.

The new CDC study said cases cropped up among at least 51 Min­nesota res­i­dents who at­tended the rally and at least 35 who made sec­ondary con­tact through work, so­cial life or their homes.

Three Min­nesotans who at­tended event wound up hos­pi­tal­ized, and one died, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

“The im­pact of gath­er­ings as a source of virus trans­mis­sion un­der­scores the im­por­tance of re­duc­ing the num­ber of at­ten­dees at gath­er­ings, us­ing face masks, and en­cour­ag­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing,” the study au­thors wrote.

“Th­ese find­ings high­light the far-reach­ing ef­fects that gath­er­ings in one area might have on an­other area,” the re­port added. “The mo­tor­cy­cle rally was held in a neigh­bor­ing state that did not have poli­cies re­gard­ing event size and mask use, un­der­scor­ing the im­pli­ca­tions of poli­cies within and across ju­ris­dic­tions.”

Min­nesota Gov. Tim Walz called the Stur­gis rally “ab­so­lutely un­nec­es­sary.”

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