NBC News on Tuesday announced that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held last month in South Dakota may have caused more than 250,000 new coronavirus cases in America. New Jersey Department of Health Commission Judith Persichili’s statement on the Sturgis Bike Rally says that’s probably not true.
400,000 bikers from all over America attended the 10-day rally, including thousands of New Jersey residents. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, just one person brought COVID-19 back with them from Sturgis. That person was quickly identified by state contact tracers and did not infect any other residents in the state.
So, according to the NBC report and a study by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, the other “249,999 people” must have taken the virus elsewhere.
In fact, the study was not even a medical study. It was a study based purely on statistics and assumptions.
“The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the “worst case scenarios” for superspreading occurred simultaneously: the event was prolonged, included individuals packed closely together, involved a large out-of-town population (a population that was orders of magnitude larger than the local population), and had low compliance with recommended infection countermeasures such as the use of masks,” the ‘study’ concluded. “The only large factors working to prevent the spread of infection was the outdoor venue, and low population density in the state of South Dakota.”
The study primarily used smartphone data and the fact that COVID-19 cases did increase in and around Sturgis during the rally, but there is so far, no medical evidence that rallygoers brought the virus back to their home states afterward.
The report cited by NBC begins with the following disclaimer, “Any opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and not those of IZA. Research published in this series may include views on policy, but IZA takes no institutional policy positions. The IZA research network is committed to the IZA Guiding Principles of Research Integrity. The IZA Institute of Labor Economics is an independent economic research institute that conducts research in labor economics and offers evidence-based policy advice on labor market issues.”
Moreover, the study lacks any hard evidence that bikers brought the virus home with them, or that those infected at the rally went out in public and recklessly infected others upon their return. With many states having armies of contact tracers, we were unable to find a single report of a biker bringing back COVID-19 reported by any state health department that lead to a flare-up or local outbreak.
New Jersey, which has some of the most strictly enforced COVID-19 rules in America and the largest army of COVID-19 contact tracers yielded just one case. That person was quarantined and has since recovered. Health officials certified on Tuesday that there was no spread of the virus.
The IZA report is purely a statistical “what if” presentation of a worst-case scenario that hasn’t happened.
The only newsworthy item from the Sturgis Rally, remains when police saved a few Antifa protesters’ lives.