Sturgis Rally finds itself at the centre of bitter US COVID-19 debate

The Sturgis Rally finds itself at the centre of the United States' raging debate over COVID-19 as a portion of attendees go to lengths to flout safety precautions

Sturgis motorcycle rally
Sturgis motorcycle rally

The already controversial Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has continued to attract headlines amid reports of people wearing masks being mocked and even a ‘sneezing contest’ taking place in defiance of COVID-19 fears.

The event in South Dakota is considered one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the world, attracting more than 500,000 people over the 10 day festival, and went ahead despite more than half of Sturgis’ population calling for it to be cancelled this year.

However, with organisers expecting many to turn up regardless, it decided to go ahead with a number of measures and advice designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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Unsurprisingly, in a nation already divided on several COVID-19 fronts – from the stipulation to wear masks all the way up to the conspiracy theories that death figures have been exaggerated to make President Trump look bad – the Sturgis Rally has perhaps unwittingly found itself at the centre of a wider issue in the United States.

Though organisers have attempted to do their bit to encourage – if not enforce - safety, large crowds have  according to The Insider ‘packed into bars, used communal Slip ‘n Slides and for the most part flouted advice from local officials to wear masks’.

Over the weekend almost 90 arrests on drug related charges and a total of 286 citations were handed down by South Dakota state highway patrol.

“It's like COVID does not exist here, to be honest with you," attendee Bill Converse told Insider.

"From my perspective, I feel that Sturgis is like America used to be," he said. "I could go up to anyone around me, I've never met them before, and say 'Hey, I need an extension cord,  you got any?' and they'll fall over to get something for me. It's fantastic." 

In all, 163,000 are known to have died in the United States from 5 million cases, making up a large portion of the 732,000 that have perished globally.

In what such isolated incident, a ‘sneezing contest’ reportedly took place in a bar in defiance of the measures.

For the most part South Dakota has avoided the worst of the pandemic with relatively few cases and deaths, but locals are worried the Sturgis Rally has all the ingredients to become a ‘superspreader’ event because the Governor Kristi Noem stopped short of making masks mandatory, instead encouraging locals to stay at home instead. 

"My opinion is, if you are scared of getting COVID, or you're at high-risk, then you stay home,” Mr Converse, continued. “It's wrong for the government to make me stay home because somebody else might get sick. If that person is sick, let them stay home." 

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