Tens of thousands of bikers have descended upon the South Dakota city of Sturgis in recent days for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally — virus be damned.
Scenes from Sturgis show bikers stuffed into every nook and cranny of the small city. The event, which runs from Aug. 7–16, marked its 80th anniversary this year. Somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000 people, or even more, were expected for the festivities, reports indicated. In years past, the crowd has topped 500,000.
The decision to move forward with the event, a city spokesperson told CBS News, “came after hearing from thousands of attendees that they were coming to the event, even if it was canceled by the City of Sturgis.”
Some have stood up to the tourists, though: The rally’s website notes multiple “COVID-19 travel restrictions on tribal lands” — specifically, checkpoints at the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River reservations to screen out-of-staters and, in the latter case, reroute them around tribal land.
The event’s rules require that vendors’ employees are provided with masks, but no one is required to wear a face covering, and photos show bikers flouting social distancing recommendations.
I trusted my people, they trusted me, and South Dakota is in a good spot in our fight against COVID-19.
— Kristi Noem (@KristiNoem) August 6, 2020
The Rapid City Journal, based a half-hour away from Sturgis, reported that antibody testing would be available to rallygoers for $45 a pop. Another story in the paper showed a packed crowd for the band Smash Mouth Sunday night.
The virus hasn’t hit South Dakota as hard as elsewhere around the country. According to the South Dakota Department of Health on Sunday, the number of “active” cases in the state had increased by 101 over the past week — up to 1,125. Overall, according to the state’s numbers, active cases have trended upward over the past two weeks.
Most rallygoers don’t appear to have noticed the global pandemic.
“I’ve not seen one single person wearing a mask,” one bar employee in Sturgis, Jessica Christian, told The Guardian. “It’s just pretty much the mentality that, ‘If I get it, I get it.’”
“I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to be cooped up all my life either,” biker Stephen Sample told USA Today.
“I’m not convinced it’s real,” another attendee, Thomas Seal, told The New York Times. “I think it’s nothing more than the flu. If I die from the virus, it was just meant to be.”