Good times at Sturgis. AP photo
If only someone could have seen this coming. A new study has found that last month's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which packed roughly 500,000 defiantly maskless, clueless, MAGA morons from across the country into a small town in South Dakota for ten days of partying - often while wearing a popular t-shirt declaring, “Screw Covid - I Went to Sturgis" - likely caused over 260,000 new COVID cases, or almost 20% of the country's total new cases and almost half of those who attended. The study, by four professors with the German-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics, tracked cellphone data from the rally as said morons went home again after carousing with other motorcyclists in crowded bars, clubs and restaurants. Titled “The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event," the report tied 266,796 cases, or 19% of 1.4 million new COVID cases in the U.S. over the last month, to the Sturgis event. It also estimated the public health cost at over $12 billion, or "enough to have paid each of the estimated 462,182 rally attendees $26,553.64 not to attend." The rally "represents a situation where many of the ‘worst-case scenarios’ for super-spreading occurred simultaneously,” researchers wrote. “The event was prolonged, included individuals packed closely together, involved a large out-of-town population, and had low compliance with recommended infection countermeasures" like - duh - masks and distancing.
For that, the complicit victims can thank Trump death cult member and GOP Gov. Kristi Noem, who rejected public health experts' warnings and welcomed the rally to a "Back to Normal" state that was "in a good spot." This week, after release of the report, Noem remained in denial despite deadly evidence to the contrary - South Dakota is seeing a big COVID spike, it now has the country's third-highest rate of new cases per capita, and the first death from Sturgis was just reported. Still, she blasted the new study: “This report isn’t science; it’s fiction (and) nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom." She was dutifully if lamely backed by local officials, who argued people “shouldn’t put too much stock into models,” and besides schools are reopening so of course cases are up, which likely made residents feel much better. On Twitter, the tone was dark: People made morbid jokes about upcoming good deals on used Harleys, noted, "It's almost impossible to say 'but muh freedumbs' when hooked up to a ventilator," and mourned, "Now we just wait for the deaths." Meanwhile, the lethal, blindly stupid show goes on. In North Carolina, which has had 178,000 COVID cases and on Tuesday reported over 1,000 new cases, people obliviously packed into another reality-defying Trump rally, flaunting the state's mask and limited-gathering mandate, to hear a pointedly maskless Trump babble, rave, mock Joe Biden for social distancing, and trash Kamala Harris as "an insult to our country." Because things weren't quite surreal enough, as fans awaited his arrival, loudspeakers blared - again without copyright access - "Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door."
Still good, still maskless. Getty Image
What happens at Sturgis doesn't stay at Sturgis. The report's map.