Multiple states report COVID-19 cases linked to Sturgis rally

By ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Health experts’ fears about the hundreds of thousands of bikers who descended on South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the middle of a pandemic are coming true.

Dozens of coronavirus cases in eight states are believed to be linked to the 10-day motorcycle event earlier this month. South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming and Washington state health departments all have reported cases.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who spoke at the Republican National convention Wednesday, supported holding the rally in her state.

“We are not — and WILL not — be the subjects of an elite class of so-called experts,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “We the People are the government.”

A patron who visited multiple bars in Sturgis, as well as a tattoo shop employee, tested positive for COVID-19, according to the South Dakota Health Department.

“Currently 40 cases have been reported to the South Dakota Department of Health related to the Sturgis Rally,” the health department told ABC News in a statement. “This includes three out-of-state cases that we were notified of because those cases had close contact with a South Dakota resident.”

On Aug. 7, the opening day of the rally, South Dakota had roughly 9,000 COVID-19 cases, according to the health department. By Aug. 26, positive cases had risen to 11,500. The state’s positivity rate also rose, from 6% for the 14 days before Aug. 7, to 9% for the 14 days before Aug. 26.

A high positivity rate can be a sign that a state is only testing its sickest patients and failing to cast a net wide enough to accurately capture community transmission, according to Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.

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