The Republican governor of South Dakota is disputing the number of coronavirus cases that stemmed from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August and called a report that at least 250,000 cases were tied to the event “made up.”
So far one death has been traced to the rally, but if a new study is any indication, that number should skyrocket.
In a new study from Germany’s Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is described as a super-spreader event after 400,000 bikers rumbled into the small South Dakota town and crowded into bars and restaurants for 10 days.
The study “extrapolated a possible infection count based on increased infection rates following the event” after tracking cellphone data from the city during the rally.
The final tally: 266,796 new cases.
“We conclude that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally generated public health costs of approximately $12.2 billion,” the study’s authors wrote.
“This is enough to have paid each of the estimated 462,182 rally attendees $26,553.64 not to attend,” the IZA study found.
Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, downplayed the report in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday.
“That’s actually not factual whatsoever,” Noem said. “What they did is they took a snapshot in time and they did a lot of speculation, did some back of the napkin math and made up some numbers and published them. This study wasn’t even done by a health care study, it was done by the Institute of Labor Economics and it’s completely untrue.”
Noem said the number of cases from the rally was actually less than 300.
South Dakota already reported a 126% increase in cases in the two weeks after the rally ended, despite Noem’s denials. Neighboring states such as North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska have also seen a rise in new cases.
South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon added that the study had not been peer-reviewed. The same study author’s found that Black Lives Matter protests did not lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.
Researchers who were not involved in the IZA study have also pointed to Sturgis as a reason for new outbreaks in the Midwest but have also pointed to students returning to college and university campuses as another factor.
The U.S. accounts for nearly 25% of the more than 27.6 million cases and about 20% of the nearly 900,000 deaths worldwide, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
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