Tuesday, August 25, 2020

WI has COVID-19 traced to Sturgis, SD biker rally

Though how many cases in Wisconsin is not clear, Wisconsin is now among states with COVID-19 cases traced to the massive motorcycle rally this month in Sturgis, SD where little mask-wearing was reported and social distancing in bars was ignored.
Reports emerged last week confirming several cases in connection with the 10-day motorcycle gathering — 103 in total so far.
In addition to North and South Dakota, states seeing COVID-19 cases linked to the Sturgis event include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming and Washington.
I have been tracking this eventuality for days on my blog, here:

8/24/20 update: Sturgis rally linked to more cases, as biker-attendees return to 61% of US counties: 
Revved by Sturgis Rally, COVID-19 infections move fast, far
Health departments in four states, including South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming, have reported a total of 81 cases among people who attended the rally. South Dakota health officials said Monday they had received reports of infections from residents of two other states — North Dakota and Washington. The Department of Health also issued public warnings of possible COVID-19 exposure at five businesses popular with bikers, saying it didn't know how many people could have been exposed.
8/21/update - Sturgis rally related cases now found in MN, NB and S. Dakota, including a tattoo artist at the event.

8/19/20 not-surprising update:

A person who spent hours at a bar during the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota last week has tested positive for Covid-19, state health officials said Tuesday....
The bar-goer visited One-Eyed Jack's Saloon in Sturgis on August 11 from noon to 5:30 p.m. while able to transmit the virus to others, health officials said.... South Dakota Department of Transportation officials tracked over 462,000 vehicles entering Sturgis during the rally, according to CNN affiliate KDLT/KSFY. That total is a 7.5% decline from the previous year but still represents one of the largest gatherings since the coronavirus pandemic began. 
Many of those gathered did not wear masks or keep distance from others, most notably at a concert for the rock band Smash Mouth. 
From an August 7th posting:

Wisconsin citizens and public health officials should be paying close attention to the massive motorcycle gathering now underway - visual, here - through August 16 in Western South Dakota.

Yes, that's hundreds of miles to the west, but in COVID-19 terms just a sneeze away.

An estimated 250,000 - and perhaps more - motorcycle enthusiasts are expected to descend on the small community of Sturgis, SD for the 80th Harley-Davidson ride and reunion.

Also a matter or regularity is Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson's key sponsorship, as its bikes are the event's official motorcycles.

Media across the county are heavily reporting on the rally and noting that South Dakota's far-right GOP Governor Kristi Noem has disparaged mask-wearing and instituted few COVID-19 restrictive measures.

And she welcomed the mask-free Sturgis gathering, while nothing remotely its size has been held in the US for months, and far-smaller gatherings have been cancelled nationally - including an annual charity bike rally next month in Tomahawk, WI - because there's an out-of-control viral pandemic underway spreads easily in large groups that has killed over 160,000 Americans and sickened nearly 5 million in a mere five months.

Said Noem:

As we get more and more data about this virus, it’s becoming increasingly clear that most of us aren’t at high risk. This virus has a clear vulnerable population; we know that elderly folks are far more likely to get seriously ill, especially when paired with certain pre-existing health conditions. That leaves about 95% of the population that is not at risk for serious infection. For these folks, we can continue getting back to normal, while making the best decisions for ourselves and our loved ones.
Noem's science-free/data-distorted dismissal of life-and-death pandemic realities - she's still doing Trump's bidding by pushing his favorite but useless treatment -
...a study out of Michigan’s Henry Ford Health System indicates that hydroxychloroquine may cut mortality rate for COVID-19 in half.
-  dubbed "flawed" by actual lifetime disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci  underscores the rally's dangerous masking snub -  
No Masks Required...
- that will put rally attendees - and later, their families, random on-the-road business customers and total strangers back home - at risk for the virus and its further transmission.

And with poor countries and hard-pressed US communities struggling with the outbreak while resources and medical supplies are short, South Dakota is forced to provide testing materials and even a temporary 172-bed ICU should cases there spiral.

Talk about priorities skewed!

Wisconsin already with its stiff share of COVID-19 cases and dismissive right-wing 'leaders'

needs to pay special attention to these possibilities because Wisconsin is among the national leaders in motorcycle ownership - #7 - and Harley-Davidson bikes have been estimated as high as 90% of those on-the-ground at the Sturgis annual rallies.

And, still, Saturday's news brought more ugly news - a record number of positive COVIDS-19 cases reported, and deaths approaching 1,000.

That's a huge number of families and friends freshly suffering.

In the same state where just a few days ago, the GOP's Senate Majority Leader and guaranteed winner this year for a US Congressional seat said his mission to overturn a statewide gubernatorial indoors-only masking order was based on the COVID-19-enabling premise of 'let people comply if they want.' 

So, regrettably, there is a good chance that even if attendance at the rally falls to 250,000 - earlier allies have had hundreds of thousands more - plenty of riders without even knowing it could bring the virus back to Wisconsin homes and businesses - and beyond.

The StarTribune's editorial board in Minnesota which borders both Wisconsin and South Dakota laid it all out pretty succinctly four days ago on the eve of the rally:

'Utter disaster.' Allowing Sturgis rally to go on puts nation at risk 
Failure of leadership at multiple levels allows event to go on during pandemic. 

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