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Thousands Of Bikers Risk Health To Attend Motorcycle Rally In South Dakota

One attendee said in an interview that people are “tired of being at home, this is what this rally is about—freedom.”

Getty Images | Motorcyclists ride through downtown Deadwood, South Dakota during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 8, 2020.
Getty Images | Motorcyclists ride through downtown Deadwood, South Dakota during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 8, 2020.

Tens of thousands of bikers are disregarding the threat of COVID-19 to attend an annual, blowout motorcycle rally in South Dakota. 

The 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally kicked off on August 7, and according to a New York Times report, could see around 250,000 attendees — around half the amount of people who attended in 2019. Despite its lower turnout, the rally is still expected to be one of the largest public events to be held globally since the pandemic began. 

South Dakota was one of few U.S. states that did not implement a stay-at-home order during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak this spring. On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) added South Dakota to the tri-state area quarantine list as cases in the Northeast have largely plateaued. 

Many attendees have expressed ambivalence about the virus, with some flaunting their lack of masks. One attendee claimed in an interview that people are “tired of being at home, this is what this rally is about—freedom.” Attendees were also seen selling T-shirts that said “God, guns and Trump” and “I survived corona,” CBS News reported.

The Department of Public Safety also reportedly said that police made 84 arrests at the rally related to drugs and driving under the influence over the weekend — an increase from the same time period last year.

The rally also included a performance from the band Smash Mouth whose lead singer Steve Harwell told the crowd, “We’re all here together tonight! F*ck that COVID shit!”

According to a CNN report, city council members in Sturgis, which has fewer than 7,000 residents, sent out a survey to all households prior to deciding whether or not to hold the immense rally as usual. Even though slightly over 60% of respondents voted against holding the event, the city council approved the move. 

Many observers, including health officials, worry that the event will lead to even more COVID-19 cases in the U.S., which have already surpassed 5 million

"Those super spreader events are real," Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and professor, told CNN. “We have reports from across the country of one person infecting 90 or 100 (people) or even more. And so if you have a few of those infections that start at Sturgis, people go back home and even have the potential to spread in their own communities."

Authorities from the Cheyenne River Reservation have reportedly been denying access through the tribe’s reservation to tourists attending the rally, in an effort to prevent transmission in their territory.