Remember Last Year’s Massive Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota? It’s Happening Again.

Hundreds of thousands of people are heading to Sturgis

Sturgis Rally
Bikers head toward Sturgis, South Dakota on August 7, 2003.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

With the delta variant on COVID-19 on the rise, the CDC has recommended that everyone — regardless of vaccination status — wear masks indoors under certain conditions. As for outdoor events, there’s been a little more debate over what is and is not safe — though it’s worth mentioning that a lot of public health experts are worried about this year’s Lollapalooza in Chicago, which drew 100,000 attendees daily. Now, another massive outdoor event has drawn the concern of many – some of whom might get a sense of deja vu.

The event in question is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It’s an annual event, and it’s very possible that you remember the controversy over last year’s iteration, which drew 450,000 people to the South Dakota town where the rally takes place. By early September, one attendee had died from COVID-19, with hundreds of other cases connected to the event. A controversial study that linked the event to hundreds of thousands of subsequent COVID cases has been hotly debated and was not peer reviewed.

And this year, the rally is back. A report at Autoblog from the Associated Press gives a portrait of its opening this year, with the rally slated to being 700,000 people through South Dakota. The article notes that, on Thursday evening, “downtown Sturgis was clogged with Harleys, rallygoers packed shoulder-to-shoulder at bars and rock shows, and masks were nowhere in sight.”

Local authorities have taken some steps to address the pandemic, including attendees to drink on public property as opposed to having to remain indoors. One unvaccinated attendee told the AP that, regarding the coronavirus, “If it happens, it happens.” As for whether or not the rally will be the superspreader event that some fear, we’ll have a better sense in the coming weeks.

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