Epidemiologists believe this number is a significant undercount due to the resistance of some rallies to testing and limited contact tracing in some states. As a result, the true extent of the infections resulting from the August 7-16 event is unlikely to ever be known. Public health officials have long expressed concern over the decision to continue the annual event, considered the largest in the United States since the pandemic, which dropped most of the large gatherings.
Now, a little over two weeks after the rally concluded, the Midwest and Dakotas in particular are seeing spikes in coronavirus cases, even as infections decline or plateau in the rest of the country. In addition to the aftermath of Sturgis, Ehresmann and other health officials attribute much of the surge in the Midwest to people who disobey public health guidelines, wear masks, and attend social gatherings such as weddings and funerals.
But Sturgis was unique in attracting people from across the nation to a small town where they huddled in bars, restaurants, tattoo shops, and other stores, many without a mask. An analysis of anonymized cell phone data by a company called Camber Systems found that 61
These participants then returned home, “perhaps to places where there was initially not so much broadcast,” said Ehresmann. “They have the potential to amplify transmission in several places. This is what public health is all about. “
Of the states that have reported rally-related infections, South Dakota has seen the most at 105. State health officials there have issued warnings of three potential Covid-19 exposures that occurred during the event after learning that people tested positive because the virus had visited Sturgis stores while it was contagious.