Revved by Sturgis Rally, COVID-19 infections move fast, far
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The hundreds of thousands of bikers who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have departed western South Dakota, but public health departments in multiple states are trying to measure how much and how quickly the coronavirus spread in bars, tattoo shops and gatherings before people traveled home to nearly every state in the country.
From the city of Sturgis, which is conducting mass testing for its roughly 7,000 residents, to health departments in at least six states, health officials are trying to track outbreaks from the 10-day rally which ended on Aug. 16. They face the task of tracking an invisible virus that spread among bar-hoppers and rallygoers, who then traveled to over half of the counties in the United States.
An analysis of anonymous cell phone data from Camber Systems, a firm that aggregates cell phone activity for health researchers, found that 61% of all the counties in the U.S. have been visited by someone who attended Sturgis, creating a travel hub that was comparable to a major U.S. city.
“Imagine trying to do contact tracing for the entire city of (Washington), D.C. but you also know that you don't have any distancing, or the distancing is very, very limited, the masking is limited,” said Navin Pembar, who co-founded Camber System. “It all adds up to a very dangerous situation for people all over the place. Contact tracing becomes dramatically difficult."
Health departments in four states, including South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming, have reported a total of 76 cases among people who attended the rally. South Dakota health officials said Monday they had received reports of infections from residents of two other states — North Dakota and Washington. The Department of Health also issued public warnings of possible COVID-19 exposure at five...