Contravening all public health guidelines, the 2020 Sturgis Rally has proved to be exactly the Covid-19 ‘superspreader’ event that experts feared.  An estimated 250,000 new cases between Aug. 2 – Sep. 2 2020 are directly linked to the rally, which is nearly 20% of the total new cases in the USA in that period, and the public health costs are estimated at $12.2 Billion.  A recent study by IZA Institute of Labor Economics (click for a pdf) made the story abundantly clear: Sturgis this year was a bad idea, but the price tag in the aftermath dwarfs any economic benefit gained by local businesses or the South Dakota economy as a whole.  But, local businesses and the state of South Dakota will not pay that price, as nearly all rally attendees were from out of state, and returned home to spread viral souvenirs.

This virus for you: social distancing and mask-wearing were virtually nonexistent at the 2020 Sturgis Rally [Daily Mail]
With as many as 500,000 riders attending this year, the Sturgis Rally was perhaps the largest mass gathering of any kind, anywhere on the planet, during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The refusal of attendees to wear masks, coupled with close proximity in large crowds, was a recipe for disaster, and now the costs, physical and financial, are rolling in. ‘This is enough to have paid each of the estimated 462,182 rally attendees $26,553.64 not to attend,” noted the IZA paper.

Anonymized cell phone data shows Sturgis rally attendees returned to 61% of all US counties. [Tektonix]
“The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19” was released today, and picked up by numerous news outlets, from The Economist and Forbes to The Vintagent.  The IZA Institute of Labor Economics is one of the most highly regarded economic research groups in the world, and is based in Bonn, Germany, and has over 1300 international research fellows and affiliates.


Sturgis 2020 was the worst PR disaster for motorcycling since ‘The Wild One’ of 1953.


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