By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A recent study has connected the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to more than a quarter of a million coronavirus cases, but South Dakota health officials were quick to point out that the study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet.
Four researchers from the Institute of Labor Economics published a study focusing on the spread of the coronavirus. By reviewing cell phone data, they concluded that the rally was responsible for more than 250,000 cases spread nationally.
The study also estimated that the coronavirus cases generated by the rally created $12.2 billion in public health costs.
Natrona and Campbell counties in Wyoming, as well as counties in states such as Colorado, Iowa, Washington and California, saw a 10.7% increase in coronavirus cases more than three weeks after the opening of the Sturgis rally.
“This suggests that the COVID-19 spread effects of Sturgis occurred far more widely than just the state of South Dakota or its border states,” the study said.
It was also suggested that tighter coronavirus mandates in South Dakota could have mitigated the spread.
However, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said the study was grossly misleading.
“This report isn’t science; it’s fiction,” Noem tweeted. “Under the guise of academic research, this report is nothing short of an attack on those who exercised their personal freedom to attend Sturgis.”
“Predictably, some in the media breathlessly report on this non-peer reviewed model, built on incredibly faulty assumptions that do not reflect the actual facts and data,” she said.
“At one point, academic modeling also told us that South Dakota would have 10,000 COVID patients in the hospital at our peak. Today, we have less than 70,” the governor said.
“I look forward to good journalists, credible academics, and honest citizens repudiating this nonsense,” she said.
The newspaper reported that health officials had seen the study, but were going to dispute a number of data points in the study, such as its conclusion that the spread of hundreds of thousands of cases could be traced to the rally and its use of cell phone data to track the spread of the virus.
As of Tuesday afternoon, South Dakota has 2,679 active cases of the coronavirus, 68 of which are hospitalized. The state has reported 173 deaths attributed to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.