Between the literal global pandemic and the 2020 presidential election, it’s easy to feel like time is a myth. What month is it? What day? What happened over the summer can feel like a lifetime ago. Still, you might remember when Daily Kos covered the enormous motorcycle rally held in Sturgis, South Dakota, back in August. About 460,000 people attended the rally in spite of the pandemic, and as Daily Kos covered, few masks and many out of towners were involved. Now, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that at least 86 cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota (which borders South Dakota) have been linked back to the rally. Of those 86 cases, four involved hospitalizations. One case resulted in death.
According to the report, 51 of those people attended the rally. The remaining 35, however, merely came into contact with people who attended the event. This finding makes the rally even more important to consider in the larger context of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Let’s break down why below.
As we already know, one of the biggest concerns in mitigating this pandemic is the lack of consistent regulations across the nation. Even from city to city, rules and guidelines sometimes differ. In the case of the Sturgis rally, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, did not have a mask mandate for the state. Beyond the lack of mask mandate, her decision not to cancel the event itself was a mind-boggling one. And because we don’t live in a bubble, it’s a decision that affected people who don’t even live in her state. For example, you may recall that the Associated Press found that close to 300 people in 12 states tested positive for the virus after they attended the rally, which spanned 10 days.
Though Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota believed the rally was unnecessary given the pandemic to begin with, he had no actual sway over that decision, and in spite of Minnesota having stricter COVID-19 regulations, people in his state still contracted the virus as a result of the event.
This sort of dynamic may play out again and again because we do not have national, consistent messaging on how to face the virus.
According to the CDC, the big takeaway from these findings is to “highlight the importance of reducing the number of attendees at gatherings and emphasizing mask use, physical distancing, isolation for patients with COVID-19, and quarantine for close contacts as strategies for reducing the spread of COVID-19.” Basically what we know already, but clearly some people need the reminder. And because it never hurts to repeat it: Please, wear a mask if it’s safe for you to do so.