In news that will surprise absolutely no one, South Dakota health department officials are reporting a 36-percent weekly COVID-19 test positivity rate just over a week after the 2021 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally concluded. Broken down by county, the highest increase reported within the state is in Meade County, which is also where Sturgis takes place each year.
This information reflects South Dakota Department of Health statistics reported as of August 25, 2021. South Dakota news station KELOLAND first reported the 36-percent weekly test positivity rate in Meade County on August 23, drawing local, national, and international attention to the statistics now coming out of the state.
A 36-percent positivity rate means that over one out of every three COVID-19 tests administered within the county is currently positive for the virus. Per the South Dakota Department of Public Health, weekly test positivity rates are reported each Monday, and are based on the number of new PCR tests from the previous week (Sunday through Saturday).
The South Dakota Department of Transportation counted a total of 525,768 vehicles around Sturgis during the rally, which marks a high point in attendance during the course of the event’s history. Two weeks before the 2021 rally, Meade County had just 20 reported COVID-19 cases. As of August 25, that number is up to 330, according to NBC News. Statewide, South Dakota had 644 cases two weeks before Sturgis 2021. Two weeks later, it’s up to 3,819 reported cases.
Contact tracing is ongoing, and it’s too soon to have evidence to back the characterization of Sturgis 2021 as a superspreader event, but it’s certainly not looking good. As the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus ravages populations across the country—hitting particularly hard among those who are unvaccinated, which currently includes all children under 12 years of age—it's difficult to know what to say.
No one likes this virus, or wants this virus to continue. No one likes to think that their lives simply don’t matter to those around them. Furthermore, no one wants to think that vulnerable people like children and cancer patients don’t matter. Yet evidence seems to show that they don’t, and stories like this are ample demonstrations that over half a million people’s good time is apparently far more important than anyone else’s lives.